Saturday, 26 July 2008

Dhoom!

It all began when my GTalk, in the middle of its afternoon siesta, was suddenly jolted awake.
Hope you are okay, said Pop-up One.
“Yes I am, thank you,” I replied to her.
Before I could finish, another popup appeared. “Hey just heard, what’s happening?” asked another acquaintance.
Uh?
“What happened?”
“Blasts! In Bangalore. Five.”
Oh My God!
My first thought: Why the hell am I not a journalist anymore… why am I stuck in this office in Whitefield-halli! Oh why why why????
My second thought: Where’s Appa?
Once it was confirmed that Appa was home and not wandering around in Panthrapalya/ Annepalya/ Langford Road/ Mysore Road/ Raja Ram Mohan Roy Circle/ Adugodi/ Kengeri, excitement set in.
We rushed downstairs to Shalin’s apartment to check out live coverage on TV. The fact that they were low intensity blasts in fairly deserted areas calmed us to an extent. Repeated shots of a plastic bucket being put over a suspicious looking object brought our humor back. Traffic pileups failed to shock us; they were typically Friday-afternoon-3pm-traffic jams. A hyper journalist pointed at smashed window panes to drive home the gravity of the situation. One TV reporter of a Reputed Hindi Channel accused Al Qaida, citing recent intelligence reports that claim that Osama is out of work and has run out of creativity and timepassing with gelatin sticks (ok, I am lying. They haven’t yet reported THAT. But they did report the death of a woman and a pigeon due to the blasts. The latter is NOT made up!). We switched the TV off and resumed normal life.
Very late at night, I had an interesting GTalk conversation with a journalist friend who was still at work.
Me: You are still at office?
He: Almost done, rewriting. I feel like a high-end prostitute.
Me: Adding masala when there was none?
He: Precisely. The brief was to look for "moving" stories, so I am manufacturing panic and emotion, by turn.
Me: Ah!
Well, my personal take on the conspiracy theory is, either this is the work of the opposition parties to create trouble for the BJP government, or more scarily, this could just be a precursor of things to come.
I hope to God that I am wrong.

Bangalore: Thanda Thanda Cool Cool

On my first day at work in a Bangalore newspaper, way back in Feb 2003, my chief reporter, with eight years of work experience, sagely told me: “If you are looking for excitement, please go to Delhi or Mumbai. Nothing ever happens in Bangalore.” But to make my life as exciting as she can, she gave me the infrastructure beat, and so for four years I wrote on something that is still considered sensational in Bangalore: Potholes.
However, her words have come back to haunt me quite often. Events that could have possibly shaken other cities suddenly become as thanda as a phuss phuss phataka in cool Bangalore.
Some examples:
* Riots: Post actor Rajkumar’s death, the entire city supposedly witnessed widespread violence. I was out on the streets and I tell you, I have never had so much fun before. I walked along with the wannabe mobsters, who engaged enthusiastically in destructive acts like smashing cars and breaking window panes, but not once was I eve teased or passed comments upon. In fact, some from the unruly groups even paused to create a PRESS sticker for our car so that other unruly mobs don’t trouble us. At the end of the tense day, one poor policeman was beaten to death which was tragic, but still far less than horrifying. I wonder what would have been my fate if the same situation had played out in Delhi.
* Bandhs: Bangalore bandhs are as adjusting as the State’s coalition politics. I think this city loves its 6 am to 6 pm bandhs. In this win-win affair, Bangaloreans enjoy an extra Sunday, watching TV all day and shopping in the evenings. In fact, I even did a story on soaring sales post-bandh, thanks to the evening rush. However, for journalists who have to report to work because they fall under the ‘essential services’ category, it’s an annoying affair. Bored and listless, with no stories coming in, we used to jaywalk on the deserted MG Road, singing cheap songs, gossiping, and helping traffic policemen paint zebra crossings.
* Floods: A few weeks after Mumbai was almost drowned, Bangalore too had its own “devastating flood”, in 2005. Low lying areas, infested with illegal constructions, concrete-choked drainage lines and poor roads, paid a price for their sins. However, at the flood sites itself, the locals were making good money. With the water level reaching over three feet on Hosur Road, negotiating through the waters became quite dangerous. The local Samaritans got down to business, albeit at a cost – Rs 30 for guiding the way; Rs 50 for holding your hand and helping you cross; Rs 100 for pushing your bike and Rs 300 for pushing a car. I bargained, showed my Press Card, complained about my poor salary package and got away with an expense of Rs 70 (inclusive of holding hand and pushing bike of my Indian Express colleague). Many turned briefly rich with the blessings of the rain gods.
* And now the serial blasts which mercifully didn't turn as bad as it could.
I was once told by an astrologer that Bangalore is ruled by the planet Venus – many find love and good luck here. I believed her then, and I believe her still. Touchwood!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Thought that lingers

"I travelled a lot once, but you can go on doing that and not get anywhere. Wherever you go or whatever you do, most of your life will have to happen in your mind. And there's no escape from that little room!"
-Ruskin Bond's "Our Trees Still Grow In Dehra"

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Sarkar Raj - Review

Sarkar-1, I felt, had the raw, fiery intensity of a stalking road Romeo. In Sarkar Raj, disappointingly, the picture turns as rosy as a young bride’s honeymoon.
In Sarkar’s Gundaraj, there’s no room for grey – it's Orbit white. So we have the Bachchan father and son, as Sarkar and Shankar, thinking only of the good of Maharashtra (so much so, that I felt the sole purpose of their endless conversations on-screen was to show their middle finger to Raj Thackerey).
Aishwarya, who was invited to perform the role of Anita (either because RGV availed the discount package of take-two-get-one-free, or he was fed up of having Ash accompany Abhishek everyday to the sets and gave her some staring/ squinting/ pouting role to do to help her kill time), pretends to be an ambitious, go getting CEO of a company wanting to set up a power plant in Maharashtra. We know this because she says, 1. “I have a business plan”, 2. “Aap project report toh dekhiye" and 3. “Yeh power plant mera dream project hain.”
In the rest of the film, she coolly forgets she’s on camera and goes back to playing the bahu of the Bachchan khandaan. “Aap wahan ja rahe hain? Mein bhi aaun?” she asks Abhishek, not once but twice in the movie. “Dad kal aa rahe hain,” she tells Abhishek, as soon as he finishes mourning the death of his pregnant wife. And two shots later: “Aaj dad aaye hain. Hum ek get together rakhe hain, aap sab ko aana hain.” She makes unsolicited, unannounced appearances into almost every second frame in a rather ghostly ghastly fashion. She thinks it is her business to be there when Abhishek fires one of his trusted lieutenants. She interrupts the emotional scene between father and son after a family tragedy. She turned out to be quite a distraction for Abhishek, who looked like he was swallowing a giggle, or a yawn, each time he was with her.
But I’m digressing. Back to the movie. RGV snipped the movie from its 2 hours 48 minutes to 2 hours 2 minutes – and it shows! The characters were not adequately fleshed out; the sequence of events also seemed random and vague. Rajesh Shringarpure took his activist role as seriously as Friends’ Joey took the role of Dr Ramoray, and turned out to be (unintentionally) hilarious. Dilip Prabhawalkar carried forward his role from Lage Raho Munnabhai and spewed Gandhigyan. The villains were consistently irritating and I was grateful that I didn’t have to wait for long to see them die.
It was the last half hour that brought my interest back to the movie. I liked the spin – as Ekta Kapoor-ish it may have been – and no one could have executed it better than Amitabh himself.
I think this movie deserves a watch only for Amitabh’s sake.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Pre-nuptial test

My dad, a true blue Aquarian, is the most unpredictable, unreadable person I know. So when Conscience Keeper came home last evening to discuss our marriage, he was mentally ready for scowls, glares and even the possibility of being turned away at the door. But little was he prepared for a written test!
Conscience Keeper had to tackle objective and essay type questions even as his mom made vain attempts to peep and help him out.
Some questions were fairly simple: Name, Date of Birth, Time of Birth, Place of Birth, Height, Family Background, Academic Qualifications, Salary etc. (The one on Weight was the only question where Conscience Keeper needed some external prompting. Subsisting only on his four roti, daal and salad ration a day since April 1, Conscience Keeper, who checks his weight every three hours, couldn’t decide between 71, 70.8 and 70.4 kgs – his weight list for yesterday. He was almost tempted to put 70.4 kgs but my dad firmly said he wanted the average and closed the matter.)
The essay-type questions, it was learnt, included: Objective of Marriage, and Expectations from the Bride.
Both men refused to share details. My dad filed the answer sheet with the rest of his documents and kept it in the locker. He later insisted on making dosas for all of us, which we would like to think is a go-ahead sign.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

My revenge against BIAL

Two years ago, on our way to Bangalore International Airport in Devenahalli on an inspection tour, my TOI colleague A and I struck a deal - We would leave our 'mark' on the almost-ready runway.
A enjoyed a smoke, threw the stub on the runway and delivered his part of the deal.
Next was my turn.
"Don't just stand there and stare...Do it now, quickly," he started.
"What if someone is looking?" I asked, terrified.
"No one's looking, will you please get done with this so that we can leave?" he insisted, impatiently.
I meekly mumbled, making no effort whatsoever.
"Do it for heaven's sake...NOW!"
"Thoo."
Only tiny droplets came out. Amit looked disappointed.
"Not done. Try again. Get some phlegm in that," he instructed.
I bent down, almost hiding my face, collected a little saliva in my mouth, crinkled my nose to gather some phlegm and spat again.
Thoooo. Thooooooo.
Two blobs of my greasy saliva briefly wet a tiny part of the runway.
............
Considering the inconvenience BIAL is about to cause in my life - three hours of commuting time on Bangalore's traffic-ridden streets and another Rs 675 to pay towards user development fee - I DON'T regret to tell this tale.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Thirty seconds gyaan

Two points of unnecessary trivia that I have been dying to share but not getting a single willing ear. So I might as well write it here and get this thing out of my system.

1. Hooch, the illicit liquor, that killed about 150 people in Bangalore last week had methyl alcohol in it. Usually, it is made of rotten jaggery, sap collected from palm trees and decayed fruits. Sometimes, they also add frogs, cockroaches, garden lizards and chicken droppings into the brew.
2. Rome has only two metro lines. The reason they cannot have the third is because each time they dig, they find some ancient relic.

Thats all. Thank you!