Saturday, May 31, 2014

Time, Please!

I am at home for an extended period after a long time. It's a great feeling, but also a feeling full of surprises.

Even something as definitive as a family starts to blur out if one stays for far too long outside. Friends and acquaintances blur too, but there is a difference. Difference lies in that even though I didn't like losing touch with some of them, I was prepared and hence better adjusted for the process. When it started happening, I acknowledged it, took efforts in maintaining touch, and eventually settled down in a practical concoction of feelings for them and efforts required to maintain those feelings. So, if the blurring happened, it was a conscious blurring. I was aware.

Family was such a given, that I didn't realise that blurring could ever happen. For me, they had fixed roles of being a parent or a grandparent. They all had such stable roles and personalities in my mind that it absolutely escaped me that they must be responding to the passage of time just as I did, modulating themselves to cope and thrive, and that in the process some of their old selves might have disappeared, and they may have picked up some new habits, too.

So when I see the same old face speaking a new thought, same old body performing a new behaviour, same old person sheltering a new mind, I stare and gape.

The mind is currently vacillating between eager curiosity, missing the older versions and plain indifference.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Miscellanea

If you are interested in the journey, the road, the potholes and the wobbles, you would love Highway! While I was watching it, kept thinking that this has to be Imtiaz Ali's best film till now. I know a lot of people would look back fondly to Jab We Met as their favourite Imti movie, and it was indeed delightful (especially the first half) but for me this one works more. Cinamatography, sound, dialogues, acting, screenplay, direction, in fact everything apart from music and the last few minutes is as perfect as is directorially possible. Imtiaz bro, you rock for coming up with such an unusual movie on a relationship \m/ It's a much wholesome take on two people who are thrown together and feel something for each other...(some spoilers ahead) There's attraction, love, past and present baggage, fulfillment of absent father and mother figures and much more...Yeah, it's all these relationships-in-one...Everything is out there and yet barely tangible because of the deliberate vagueness with which their back stories, their inner turmoils and they themselves are presented to the viewers..
--

It's amusing to answer the question, "what are your plans for the future?" I don't plan at all so I am not clear what lies ahead. It sounds absurdly blurry and directionless in today's world where every move is planned to the second...for next billion seconds. This unplanned life however, is delightful coz there is a scope for lot of spontaneity and freedom, however I am not this way for the thrill and joys that the spontaneity brings. It's just the way I am. If I need to, especially on the professional front, I can be a diligent planner and executioner...I don't understand this contradiction.

I always believed that life needs to be more than just a checklist of things to be finished every day and more multidimensional than procuring and checking a bunch of personal and professional bucket-lists. Just like being honest makes our present more simple, being spontaneous makes our present more continuous. As Sahir says,


इस पल के साये में, अपना ठिकाना है 
इस पल के आगे फिर, हर शय़ फ़साना है
कल किस ने देखा है, कल किस ने जाना है 
इस पल से पायेगा, जो तुझ को पाना है 
जीने वाले सोच ले, यही वक्त है कर ले, पूरी आरज़ू

People should realise that living in the moment can not be planned. I have realised that but haven't found a way of mouthing off this thought process without it sounding like a long-winding sales spiel justifying my life's apparent lack of direction, so I shrug and say, 'who has time for future!' and hope that the inquirer has forgotten the question in the wake of the laughter that follows.
--

A very weird thing happened recently. A grant proposal for early-career researchers to submit their proposals to be considered for a postdoctoral fellowship was making rounds on various mail lists. Apparently, the call as well as the people advertising this were found to be phony. How would they benefit from such a phony grant call? It's an ingenious way of plagiarism of ideas. All young postdocs and faculties are either racking their brains, or having raked enough have come up with a new and brilliant idea (so we think) are now safeguarding it so that we are the first ones to do it. We have to let go of our best ideas while submitting grant proposals, taking a leap of faith that they will not be leaked and used by others working in the field. But a phony call like this will immediately give the recipient a bank of 50 or 100 new ideas from all over the world in the subject of desire. It's a very good and timely wake-up call to check people's credentials before discussing ideas with them.
--

Taking risks and stepping out of your comfort zone is an oft-preached, rarely practised philosophy. Working with people who are dissimilar to you, in a place about which you don't know much, in a discipline you are not an expert of, is an essential part of growth and development. Professionally, sometimes we don't have control on our work areas and topics since experts are preferred, but we have a lot of say in where and with whom we work. One reason why India is on rise is that as a society we are ready to fill niches that are left vacant by people and societies that are very particular about the kind of opportunities they want to use, where they want to do it and with whom. We are extremely flexible and better still, adaptive of new things, which is an awesome quality to possess.
--

A beautiful lost song to relish:

Chaand Madhdham Hai: Railway Platform (1955)/Lata/Madan Mohan/Sahir



Thursday, January 16, 2014

Piya Tose Naina Laage Re

Extended version of Piya Tose Naina Laage Re from Guide...Some completely new stanzas!!



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Happy New Year...and More

Wish you all a very happy 2014!

This was in Athens. You could see the Acropolis in the bottom left corner :)

For me, I wish it is as eventful as 2013 has been. I got rid of a lot of unnecessary thoughts and habits that I was carrying around, I gained a lot of understanding about myself, my profession, but most importantly, I gained a somewhat more fleshed out idea of life. The kind I want, and the kind I would not want. I realised what and who are my priorities in life. I can't even begin to jot down the multitudes of thoughts and events that shaped me in this year. It is overwhelming. The point is, good and bad, it was never dull, the year has been a happening one, and I wish 2014 is as good if not better.
--

Since I will be leaving soon, my mentor came and talked to me at length about how I enriched his lab. I was basking in all the attention I was getting coz there was hardly any in the past year. Just to be sure that it wasn't all staged and rehearsed and repeated to everyone who leaves the lab, I asked him what was so special. I don't need to repeat all that he said because it will be bragging about myself :) Yeah, it was mostly good! I also asked him what could be improved, since people hardly give any critique these days.

One thing every postdoc wants is to create an impression. Our times are fleeting and apart from the urge to be remembered, we depend on these impressions a great deal in our careers. Asking some masked and some blunt questions to gauge the truth of his remarks, they seemed very believable. I was highly satisfied with myself and also got some tips about areas where I could improve. It's good to feel content and laidback once in while. Also, hearing these things about myself was very important to understand that I am not as hopeless or as great as my mind makes me believe sometimes.
--

I suffered from the 'imposter syndrome'. Last time it happened was almost a decade back while I was starting PhD. When you start thinking less of yourself in spite of all the great things happening to you. You think you don't deserve them, it just happened to be you, and that it could have been anyone else. That's what we call an imposter syndrome. Well, there's nothing more humbling than that, but if you feel that on a daily basis, it is a great killer of your self-worth and self-esteem. On the other hand, feeling like an imposter can work wonders professionally since you tend to overwork and push your boundaries. Which is what happened to me I believe. I worked very hard past one year, and it didn't go unnoticed.
--

On a tangent, a little bit about ethics of science. Lot of scientists believe that it's okay to exercise gratification of the knowledge buds that we so tastefully cultivate and pursue all our lives. That sometimes it should be reigned is a concept agreed upon in theory, but difficult to internalise and easily forgotten in practice (common examples would be cloning or biotechnological interventions in day-to-day lives, and there are a plethora of such scientific issues which we know could be dangerous and are yet pursued...then there are those which are fuzzy and the fuzziness and lack of clarity about their repercussions makes them easier to pursue, but could be dangerous nevertheless). Everyone has some dichotomy in their lives where they sacrifice ideals for practical issues. But if we sheepishly agree that it's a compromise why even venture in that direction? I will never ever do science for personal gratification that has adverse costs for humanity. Even if the percentage of cost is minuscule, I will not do it.
--

I want to hear more, talk less and talk only when asked something. Various reasons: 1. There was a stage when I had to speak to feel important. It was a way of asserting myself on the scene. I don't feel that need anymore. I believe now I already feel important enough not to resort to such extraneous things. 2. While I am talking, I can become the third person and observe myself talking, and it is definitely not as interesting as watching someone else do that. 3. As an extension of that thought, I realise talking is an output while listening and thinking is an input. I wish I could talk and think at the same time, but it doesn't happen. Listening and thinking however go hand in hand. So, if I need to evolve, I need to listen and think more. 4. It helps to keep boring conversations short. Negating things or showing interest by asking related questions just fuels people to talk more of the boring stuff. Also, sometimes, one just needs to space out. And you can never space out while talking. 5. My growing concern these days is how less anyone listens. We cut in while others are still speaking, we speak when not spoken to, we don't think about what we are speaking, we borrow others' thoughts and project those as our own. I dislike this in others, so first step is not to let that happen to myself.
--

Some music that has been on loop of late.

Ab Mujhe Raat Din...


This came out around the time I was in 12th and was playing on all the channels and radios then. Like any other college song, very nostalgic. I end up thinking of people and places and memories of Wardha while listening to it. Apart from the fact that it's totally my type of song..Slow, soothing, strewn with piano and guitar...

I wonder why no one uses the sound of breeze these days in songs. They used to incorporate that a lot in the 90s rain songs, but then stopped it for some reason. There's nothing more refreshing than the combo of breeze, guitar and light rains..

Dad likes this song a lot too, which is surprising since it's not at all his type.
--

Most of our pop music is banal..except Silk Route, Indian Ocean and some of Lucky Ali..Some songs across the border I like. Their Coke Studio is so much better than ours..Makes me want to explore more Paki music. Songs like Mora Sainyya (Khamaj) by Fuzön..


Sounds quite similar to the Begum Akhtar ghazal - Ulti Ho Gayi Sab Tadbeerein...



Coming to Hindi film music, one of my favourites is Ye Parbaton Ke Daayare from the 1968 film Vaasna. Music by Chitragupta, lyrics by Sahir..




Sunday, December 15, 2013

The World Tomorrow

There's a series of videos on Youtube called 'The World Tomorrow' wherein top leaders, philosophers and analysts are interviewed by Julian Assange. Here's a good one. Assange is interviewing Noam Chomsky and Tariq Ali.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Music To My Ears

Many, many old  gems come up while talking music with dad. Like the other day, we were discussing late 40s and early 50s music, and we remembered a beautiful song from Andaz (1949):


Music is by Naushad. Dad says that in the biography, Daastaan-e-Naushad, the writer Shashikant Kinikar writes that Naushad was a versatile cinephile who didn't just touch music, but also assisted filmmaker friends on story, screenplay, dialogues, direction and editing! And he must be good at it since people used to invite him quite often to do non-music affairs in their films. Some of these credits include the behemoths such as Kohinoor (1960), Mughal-e-Azam (1960) and Pakeezah (1972) among others!!!

Jaane Kya Dhundhti Rehti Hain (Shola Aur Shabnam, 1961)


Music by Khayyam. Lyrics by Kaifi Azmi. The song is in the Ghazal, Shayari genre which I don't like much (except select few by Mehndi Ali, Farida Khanum and Begum Akhtar), but I liked this song. A lot. Khayyam spearheaded the Ghazal genre in Hindi film music, and this is a good example of his forte. Raag Pahadi, but I think not a pure Pahadi. He has put some closeby notes in the song, which probably makes it a mishra-Pahadi, but that if anything makes the song even more beautiful and haunting.

Jeet Hi Lenge Baazi Hum Tum (Shola Aur Shabnam, 1961)


An outstanding song. The music..beautiful. Rafi rocks...what a tender, soothing voice. Very melodious.

Kabhi To Milegi, Kahin To Milegi (Aarti, 1962)


Lata's voice in this song is at its pristine best. आवाज़ जैसे खरे चांदी का कोई खनखनाता रुपहला सिक्का हो...Such perfect notes. And what an unconventional tune! It's in Raag Pahaadi. This song exudes vulnerable positivity. Meena Kumari...how can someone look so sensual even when fully clad? She just tilts her head, or lowers her gaze, and the effect is electrifying. And here I was, only today, telling a friend vehemently that I don't have a type. Who am I kidding? Every time I fall for the same kind of woman...Mysterious, vulnerable, expressive eyes, hint of a smile  - these are a few of my favourite things..

Aaj Se Pehle (Chitchor, 1976)



Kya Hua Tera Vaada (Hum Kisise Kum Naheen, 1977)


Adore this song. The picturisation is tapid, but the song touches the heartstrings of every guy who has some understanding of unrequited love. Remember Poornima from 90s? She gave backing vocals to Rafi here. What a raw, sweet voice. And Rafi...he was a surprise choice indeed by RD, because this movie came at a time when Rafi was an outcast, adrift in the flood of Kishore Kumar's idolisation. That's the reason why I feel Rafi must have picturised not a woman while singing this song but the audience who were once his ardent fans...The forgotten promises and the changing times...Trivia: This is the only song for which Rafi won a national award. In time too, coz Rafi would expire only 3 years later.

Dad is completely appalled by music of this era. He hates almost 90% if not more, of the music made from the day RD burst on the scene with Teesri Manzil in 1966. He becomes visibly disgusted with the western influence that RD brought into Hindi film music. My brother is the polar opposite, whose musical awakening started with the covenant of RD's ochestra. He worships RD and laughs at much of the music of 50-60s. I don't have any such qualms and embrace everything. They become incredulous regarding my choice, because just moments ago we would be discussing something where our choices are in complete unison. As we say in Ecology, they are specialists who are much specific in their musical palate, whereas me much less so, and hence a generalist (not to be confused with populist).

Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se (Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se, 1978)


Beautiful, gentle, refreshingly different song. The rhythm is unique. With many songs you can guess what came first, the lyrics or the music. With some the fit is so tight that it's difficult to imagine what preceded what. Music by Ravindra Jain. From Raag Brindavani Sarang. Some other songs from this raag are Humein To Loot Liya Milke Husnwaalon Ne (Al Hilal, 1958..music by the lesser known Bulo C. Rani), Tere Pyaar Ka Aasra Chaahta Hoon (Dhool Ka Phool, 1959..music by the Goan Dutta Naik, or popularly known as N. Dutta), Mere Mehboob Mein Kya Nahin (Mere Mehboob, 1963..Lata-Asha combo!), Chhadi Re Chhadi Kaise Gale Mein Padi (Mausam, 1975..the only Madan Mohan-Gulzar combo I am aware of).

Suniye, Kahiye (Baton Baton Mein, 1979)



Hothon Se Chhoo Lo Tum (Prem Geet, 1981)


This was an oft-sung, oft-heard song to the extent that it had become boring. And then it disappeared all of a sudden. No one ever talks about it anymore.

Mera Kuchh Saamaan (Ijaazat, 1987)


This is the famous song which when Gulzar took to RD, RD exclaimed, 'why have you brought this news cutting?!' Raju Bharatan says, that no one could imagine that such a song could be put to music, and that if anyone could, it was to be RD.

Whenever people talk about this song, you get to hear about Asha. But some songs belong to music directors over and above everyone else, and this is one such song. A gem..

--

You usually find that a hit director and music director team comes together again and again, to a level when soundtracks of successive films sound similar. Case in point: RK - Shankar Jaikishan. Navketan - SD. Burman. Chetan Anand - Madan Mohan. Nasir Hussain - RD. But if you look at Yash Chopra's filmography and the music in his films, you will notice a strikingly lateral choice of music directors. Out of 22 movies he directed, his choice of music directors included N. Dutta (twice), Ravi (twice), Salil Choudhury, Laxmikant Pyarelal, RD (twice), Khayyam (twice), Rajesh Roshan, Hridaynath Mangeshkar, Uttam Singh, Madan Mohan and A. R. Rahman. The only music directors he repeated more than twice were Shiv-Hari - a staggering seven times, which comprises of 1/3rd of his career as a director. Many of these were not popular names at all. But the music they gave was top notch!

--

Kisi Shaayar Ki Ghazal - Dream Girl (1977)


Liking for this song is enough to be expelled from any music aficionado club. I find it easy, nothing more, nothing less. It looks a tad tacky in colour, but in Black n White, this song was no less than a fairy tale. In those times I used to spend much of my time on figuring out questions my brain couldn't fathom. Such as how do actors change into new clothes so quickly! I tried it many times at home, sometimes changing the whole wardrobe, sometimes wearing three-four shirts and trousers over one another, just to check how much time I require to get into a complete new set of clothes, but to my chagrin it was always more than the split second they took on screen. I knew that it had to be a trick, but couldn't figure it out. I asked mom and dad a lot about how they do that, and they sincerely tried to answer about the shots and cuts and other technicalities, but I didn't understand it, because for me, each movie was taken as a single shot, from start to finish.

Coming from that mindset, this song was an utter mystery because the song is filled with weird special effects. Dharmendra walking on Hema Malini's flowing upper body clothing. It was crazy. I just went mad with curiosity and later with frustration at my inability to crack the filming technique.

But the reason why I think this song is set so resolutely in my memory is coz this is the the first song I remember watching on TV. We didn't have a television while growing up, so my friend Shashank's place was a godsend. I had a pet place in their TV room, just close to the door leading to the kitchen. There was a tall, thin bed prepared by putting a few bedsheets and duvets over three metallic grain containers.

The movie would start on Saturday and Sunday in the early evenings. Sushama kaku would be in the kitchen. Pappu mama would be in the front yard. Aaji would be doing puja. And Shashank, Mithila and I would be in the TV room.

--

Dad's love for music was much subdued and deep, my brother's more forceful and strong, and both left quite an impression. I believe I learnt to love music from dad, and to perform it from Aks. There are so many songs I heard dad sing at home and play on mandolin...and so many I saw Aks perform in his college orchestra.

I followed Aks to all his orchestras and heard him sing, and later on sung some of these songs myself in my college dos, and we tend to bond a lot over them:

Jaan-e-Jaan - Jawani Diwani (1972)



Neele Neele Ambar Par - Kalakaar (1982)



Ai Kaash Ke Hum - Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994)


Dad is a much-in-demand singer among family and friends. Everyone is stuck on their own favourites of his which he must have sung a lot when he was younger:

Ye Raat Ye Chaandni Phir Kahaan (Jaal, 1952)


and..

Kisiki Muskuraahaton Pe Ho Nisaar (Anari, 1959)


--

Time to introduce you to the song that had become a family anthem of sorts, especially during and around our yearly Kerala visits. From a movie called Darshan (1967), made in then East Pakistan. I don't know how someone got hold of this song, but my hunch is that some Malayali family friend who travelled to mid-East in late 70s-early 80s must have got hold of it, brought it back with him, and then someone in Danagram must have heard it, and then that's how we got to hear it. It's one of the earliest memories I have of Kerala, and is still reminiscent of mango and coconut trees, the old house,the old wooden treasure full of Amar Chitra Katha, the cultural programmes in the evening, the dinner by the lanterns, the careless abandon, love and trust with which all four of us spent time with each other and with other brothers, sisters, aunts and grandpa. There was so much love and joy...


--

I had a peculiar habit throughout my adolescence. I would put on music in full volume while having lunch before leaving for school and college. That was one time when no one used to be at home, and hence my music time. The home in Gopuri was such that I didn't have to worry about noise levels since the green fence insulated everything. The music chosen was decided completely randomly. So some days it was the 90s Hindi film music which I really liked, but most of the time it would be old music or Indian classical music since that's what we had most in our collection, and sometimes it was even Malayalam and Tamil music. Mom had brought a sizeable collection to Wardha from Danagram. The odd times when mom and dad would be at home at this time of the day, it was perplexing for them to see and hear me listening to something that I am not really expected to listen to. I did not especially liked this music or sometimes didn't even understand it, owing to the era, style or language, but I couldn't really change my own rules. There was in fact just one rule. Listen to all the cassettes one by one. The reason was very childish but logical :) I knew that some cassettes are heard more often than other. So the cassettes that are not heard had to feel left out and ignored and that when all of us slept in the night, and when all the 'non-living' objects came to life, the ones that are ignored must be feeling shitty when they heard the popular ones bragging. So my project and responsibility in life at that point was to make all music cassettes feel wanted. This began as early as middle school I think. This sounds funny, but that's how listening to everything, even things you didn't understand and appreciate, began. Later of course, the emotional and equality part of the reasoning disappeared, but by that time I was already hooked onto these different styles of music. This democratic style of listening to music helped me to not just broaden my taste and ear for different styles of music, but also made me more open to listen to anything without pre-conceived notion.

Monday, December 09, 2013

The Invisible War..


...is a disturbing documentary about women sexual assault in US military. The issue itself lends more than enough impact and credence to the film. Ghastly statistics.

16000 women candidates face sexual assault per year in US, only 20% of which are reported. 
Out of these ~3000 reported cases, only 175 or so reach the final stage of conviction.
The conviction rate is thus 1%.

The reason for this abominable conviction rate is the current lack of provision in US constitution against crimes committed by or on military personnels to be tried in civil courts. They are carried out completely under the jurisdiction of the military. The perpetrators are thus also "the judge, the jury and the executioners".

Many of these women are in turn relieved from duty, after giving as long as 10 years of their lives to the profession and to the country. Not only relieved, they were in turn convicted for deliberately acting like a victim and fabricating false cases. The accused however kept rising in ranks, and perpetrating crimes. Many of these men are serial sexual assaulters and will keep repeating this.

The movie ends on a positive note saying that the rights of US military to have the sole right to prosecute its personnel were taken away. But don't be fooled. A little reading shows that this is wrong. The military still holds complete jurisdiction over the crimes committed in its premises, and by and on its personnel.

Felt more outraged than distressed, but most of all a gnawing helplessness. Kept thinking whether India or US, things are not very different for women. Womanhood should be appreciated and valued by each man. In today's world, it's precisely the opposite. It's molested, persecuted and victimised.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Whatever Works

There are days when I feel I am on fire, and can take on anything and accomplish it. Today is one such day. I approached an unfinished manuscript with great wariness, but have been successful in editing and almost finishing it to my own manic surprise. If I knew what's it that I did differently today that's contributing to such output, I would create a secret formula for myself and stash it away in my treasure trove, but no such luck. Everything has been done just the way it usually proceeds. In any case, glad to have such surprisingly productive days once in a while.

PS. There has been a scientific study which says that if you want to come back to your unfinished task with enthusiasm, leave it at a point when you are happy with it rather than when you become tired. If that's indeed true, I would hardly get anything done!


Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Athens

I slept throughout my travel and woke up with a start as the Air France aircraft hit turbulence nearer to Athens. I believe AF flights take it as a personal pride when their aircrafts shake and shudder in mid air. In fact, there had to be a procedural plug on the dashboard to be pulled to scare shit out of all aboard. At that moment however, I was glad it made such a commotion, coz dying in sleep is cool only when you are old and wasn't my idea of how I wanted to die right then. If I had to die, I rather look the death in the face, so I leaned and looked out with anticipation.




Downtown Athens, though inland, is in close proximity to Mediterranean Sea, and the offshoots thereof, such as Ionian & Aegean Seas. The aerial view of these islands is as beautiful as the names of these seas. Athens is located on the Argosaronikos Gulf, and it makes for a stunning seascape.



Everything I thought I knew about Athens from the newspapers and hearsay, I threw it in the airport dustbin the moment I landed. Two reasons: It was cold. It was posh.I hadn't packed much in the way of winter. I should have known the limits of European definition of 'sunny and hot'. For me it was still chilly.

The great thing about the Athens Airport was that it is open. Paris is dark and cold and makes a bleak appearance. Athens on the other hand made for an appearance closely resembling the Greeks as I was about to discover. I guess, the way a city welcomes you can be taken as a proxy for its overall disposition. I love Paris. But the carefree, sunny, relaxed disposition that Mediterranean climate bestows on the Southern Europe is sourly missing in Paris.

Northern countries make for better infrastructure though as they are less relaxed. Airport-Downtown Athens metros are every 30 minutes. I missed the frequency of Metros in Paris.

While loitering aimlessly on the train station, I saw this and I kept staring...


No way! This was seriously snazzy! Could I actually read Greek if I tried? The Greek alphabets were riding the flashes of my memory and all the highschool and college Physics started unravelling in front of my eyes. The shapes started making sense. Alpha, beta gamma, delta...so on till omega. So, I didn't always understand what it meant, but I could still read it! Can you? Try and you will succeed. Many of these words are of course similar to English. I love linguistics, especially the ontogeny and etymology of words, and it was a treat, these four days, just to keep reading and making sense of shapes, and then words. Another common word on the train station...ΕΞΟΔΟΣ (or Εξοδοσ)...Can you read it? It says, Epsilon-Xi-Omicron-Delta-Omicron-Sigma...Exodos...or exodus on more commonly, exit in English!

After a long train ride, I reached the heart of Athens. I checked-in, took bath, stepped out, got some food, ate, took a nap and then went out for a long night walk.

Every nook, every corner, in fact every road had something that was lying there since last 2000 years. Much of it is subterranean as the modern city has been built over the ancient ruins. Instead of making complicated pathways leading tourists to the sites of underground ruins, the Greeks have devised an ingenious way of exhibiting their treasure to the tourists. You will see glass portals on the roads and pavements through which people can look. It's a crazy contradiction. So, on my left and right were H&Ms, GAPs, ZARAz, MANGOs and C&As of the world, and below me were stones dating back to the BCs of the world. Are you fucking kidding me?!

I kept walking and came across a crossroad where a fellow was singing some folk songs and playing something like a Mandolin. I lingered around. I sat on a stone (who knows how old it must be) and kept listening to his sonorous voice. Gentle breeze, air strung with the smell of pizza and bread, and dim white light streaming from someplace. I looked up to see where is this source of light, moved a block, and met with a dazzling demonstration of architecture sitting snugly on a distant hill which we all know as Acropolis and Parthenon!



Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Lunchbox..

...in a theatre in Paris! What a treat!

The French reviewers have been lapping up this movie...As you can see on the poster, someone said, un petit régal - one little treat; and une comédie romantique dans laquelle on se pend avec plaisir - a romantic comedy one spends time with with pleasure.

In one of the best arrondissements in Paris, the 5th...The theatre was this small quaint movie hall called Cinéma La Clef, and reminded me a lot of the M.G. Road in Bangalore in early 2000s before the onslaught of Forums and Garudas. All those vintage movie halls...Symphony, Plaza, Rex...


The theatre was full of firangs, and I was the only Indian.

.
The movie was amazing. Liked Nimrat Kaur! She reminded me a lot of an old friend from PU. Gentle, soft-spoken, expressive eyes, and vulnerable. Irrfan Khan was good too but you can see the casual manner that has kinda become a technique now. Nawazuddin was fucking brilliant. Effortless and smooth. Everytime he came the audience cracked up. And yeah, Bharti Achrekar! She cracked up the crowd too. I loved the idea that (minor spoiler!) she is not visible, but her voice makes the presence felt every 10 minutes in her dialogues with Nimrat Kaur. What a brilliant concept to signify the isolation in cities. The french subtitles were well done, the crowd was responding fine, and they gave an ovation at the end! And then the most unusual thing happened that never happens in Paris...people were turning back and looking at me and smiling, most probably acknowledging my Indian presence, and probably acknowledging how much they liked the movie. It was a moment of great pride.

--

Parisians love movies, and Paris is a great city for movie buffs. They especially love movies from 40s, 50s and 60s. The movie tickets are printed on the back with images from old classics. Here's the ticket for Lunchbox, and what do we have at the back? It's a famous Hollywood movie of the 50s with a translated French title of course! Have a look!



Thursday, November 28, 2013

Robinson Crusoe...

...is a fascinating book. It has pages after pages of emotion, drama, adventure, history, geography, philosophy, and human psychology.



I had read the Paico Classics' pictorial version of Robinson Crusoe. Since then, I had harboured a desire to read the original. While reading it now, the sepia-toned amazingly life-like picture strips of the comic kept coming to mind. The book was written in 1719, and so the language is quite dreary and long, so I still prefer the comic.



What the book has on the positive side is the portal to the early eighteenth century. But it made me quizzical and angry the way certain things were written. For example, Crusoe's colonial attitude towards the first human being he meets in 25 years. You would think, he would want to befriend the new person in his life, for Crusoe is really hungry for human company after two-and-a-half decades of solitude. He keeps calling him a savage and then as if that wasn't all, one of the first words he teaches the new guy is to call him 'master'.

The worst thing is that it is not even subtle. You know how for example western world can become patronising towards the eastern world without wanting to be? Or how the most liberal people turn into bigots without realising? Daniel Defoe wears his views on colonialism, racism, christianity and theology on his sleeve.

In spite of all this, the book is a roller-coaster adventure. It kept reminding me of days, especially in Auroville, when money was sparse and how I had to keep creating cheap stuff from local technology to spend as less as possible on tools and yet derive as scientifically rich a dividend as possible. Comparing myself to Robinson Crusoe would be laughable, but this is a book where you keep doing two things: imagining and reminiscing. That makes for a great work of fiction doesn't it? Where the reader can personally connect with a rare occurrence.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Those of you who like to read some well-writ commentary on movies, in hindi, will like this blog.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Music From The Heart

Once in a while comes a movie which has an unattractive, cryptic title and looks utterly desolate and depressing, but is about music and that keeps casually tugging at your sleeves to give it your time of the day, that you eventually melt and relent. Two hours later when you come out, you realise it has been a fascinating experience. The movie doesn't have a plot to sustain for two hours, but the director, the lead actor and most of all the music manage to hold your attention all the while. I was completely drawn in, and enjoyed Inside Llewyn Davis.


One of my favourite genre of music is Irish and English Folk which is what features predominantly in the soundtrack. Reminded me of my childhood when my brothers and I would spend watching countless re-runs of Disney cartoons like Robin Hood which were full of Folk music of the isles.

Listen to Oscar Isaac singing 'The Death of Queen Jane'. One sad, lilting song. It's a treat to watch Isaac sing this in the theatre.


500 miles features on the soundtrack too. A slightly faster version with amazing harmonies by the three singers. This is a more commercial version as compared to the original 1961 recording by The Journeymen. Reminds you of a Hindi song, doesn't it? :)



Friday, November 15, 2013

Going Greek

Damn excited to travel to Greece! Don't remember being this excited in recent times. Yayyyyyyyyy Yipeeeeeeeeeeeeee Yahooooooooooo

Unfortunately, Corfu isn't gonna be in this trip, because I had just four days off, and I heard Corfu isn't reminiscent of how it appears in Durrell's book, so what's the point, right?

Athens - here I come!

I could sense the atmosphere in the lab. No one from the lab has been there before, and those who did had been there so long ago that they don't remember anything apart from name of the Greek beer. French are never vocal with their emotions. But someone in the lab eventually croaked, "I wish I could come with you.."

Aw baby, you can't. But I will get you loads of photos :) while you work in the lab..in this cold damp weather, cooped up in the room, blasting your heater..I will be away in Athens soaking the glorious mediterranean sun.

Off I go in a few hours..

Monday, November 04, 2013

Just Rambling Along

What would I like to be inscribed on my grave?

I don't know why I would think of such a question, but I did, and I had to think really hard, which made me feel good, coz as it happens, I usually come up with answers and solutions quickly, and this question needed me to think, which means it was an unchartered territory.

After some thought, I settled on this: If inscriptions are supposed to reflect what you were when living and what you wished to be, I would not want an inscription, nor a grave. A grave makes you grounded, and I have always aspired to be free. An inscription makes you confined to a few words, and I have always wished for being more than just a few words.

But I think graves and inscriptions do act as anchors for people who we leave behind. If at all, I would want the stone to say:

Free and Fearless.
--

There was a song in Malayalam for kids that mom and dad translated in Hindi for us and the Baal-Bhavan kids. It's raining and a sparrow is looking for shelter. She goes to different trees and says:
चिलचिल चिलचिल हम हैं चिडीया चिलचिल चिलचिल चिल
चिलचिल चिलचिल हम हैं चिडीया चिलचिल चिलचिल चिल
सुनो रे अंबुआ प्यारे अंबुआ मैं नन्ही चिडीया
बारिश में छुपने भर की मुझको जगह दोगे क्या?

And the mango tree would scold the sparrow and ask her to scoot off.

And so the sparrow would ask for shelter to different trees...and so on it would go, replacing अंबुआ with नीम and other trees. In the end, ईमली very generously would allow the sparrow to take shelter on her branches. The evils need to be punished, right? A strong gale approaches and uproots every tree except the ईमली for her generosity, and she and the sparrow live happily ever after.
--


It is probably true for some of us: 'in death we come alive'. I am not sure what these thoughts are an indication of. Self-destruction? Fatalism? I am not half ashamed to think about such things, and articulate them openly on this blog. Sometimes I confuse myself. I definitely want to live. Passion, zeal, blah, blah. Remember the last blog? But at the same time, if I think of death, I think I can embrace it. Maybe not with compassion, but definitely with calmness and composure. So yeah, I am confused by my own contradictions sometimes.
--

There's a constantly pelting wind on my wall, and I had a thought: What if the wind wants a shelter? What if the rain needs a home? Now that would indeed be a classic case of schizophrenia. Unleashing something, and then wanting to safeguard yourself against it.
--

Wish you all a very happy Diwali!



Friday, October 25, 2013

Joie De Vivre

Saying that death is the essentiality is an utterly meaningless account of life. The essence of life is how you lived it, not how it culminates. Passion, fervour, intensity, zest, ecstasy. I want to associate these words with my life. Don't want to resort to numbness. I have eternity to be detached and indifferent. After death. Not now.
--

The pinnacle of success and the crushing ignominious anonymity. That's the life of an artiste. These two videos triggered immediate sadness and smiles.

C. Ramchandra...People know him for his music, but he sang a lot of his songs. It's well known that he has had classical training, but for me that wasn't so obvious. He always sounded tentative. But listen to him in this video (which was 70s or early 80s) and the training is pretty obvious! Liked his voice in this youtube video much better than the original songs. The man has the chops even in his old age. Listen to the कणस्वर…the slight touch of a स्वर closeby to embellish the main स्वर...was simply amazed by his effortlessness and solid notes. And of course, his honesty.




This one is reminiscing the old times, revisiting भूले बिसरे गीत and a short and sweet back-and-forth banter between two oldies.



Saturday, October 19, 2013

:(

How much more alone can I be?
Taunting, I ask this myself.
But didn't realise that I could break
And reduce from one to less and less.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Why

In science, we read fancy titles like 'causes and consequences of so and so..'.

Some people are more interested in why something has happened. Others are more interested in finding out the course of things thereafter now that that something has happened.

The consequence part allows you to find solutions on the things that have happened. They lead us to think about the future course of action.

The cause part leads us to trace steps that have led to an incident.

I incline more towards the causes part. So, for example, if climate change makes a species abundant, and another species rare, someone may want to investigate what happens thereafter. Does this mean the first species spreads and the second species goes extinct and if yes, how soon, spread by how much?, etc.

My response is mostly why are there such differences between the two species? What is it that makes the first species more resilient and the second more fragile?

This is in parts because of the training I received during PhD where we answered the questions pertaining to causes more than the consequences. We answered the 'why' questions more than 'so..now what'?

But this is also a manifestation of my basic nature. If I think about it, everything I plan is unplanned. I go by gut as far as my future is concerned. But once the ball is set to roll, it's fun to think, 'why am I doing it?' It is not the result of unsureness which gives rise to lot of whys too. This why is different. For example, going back to Auroville after PhD was a whim, and I did it without any plan. But for days together then, and even now, I think 'why did I go there?'. The answer could be as simple as because I liked it the first time and wanted to be there again, but obviously there are more layers to that answer, and it's fun to see within yourself, within others and the situation that paves the path for you. Analysis of a process make the hidden patterns to emerge, from which comes the insight which can impact the future. Or not.

So..I like the 'why' questions. I wonder why.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Blessing in Disguise

A blog and a scientific paper can easily occupy the polar opposite seats in the spectrum of anything that's ever been written. While blogs are personal and imaginative, manuscripts are completely devoid of any literary juice. The way that papers are being written today is to avoid subjectivity, unnecessary elaboration and repetition, and vagueness. Creative writing can easily fall in the scientific framework. There is only one problem. You can dare, but there is every possibility that an editor or a reviewer will ask you to modify if you take even a slight deviation from the detached dryness that's expected of a scientific manuscript. Hell, I have done it myself while reviewing others' work, so I can't expect anything more.

However, writing up my own work? That's a different story. I always have to rewrite all my manuscripts before I pass it on to my co-authors coz I write everything in a very popular style. Whenever I revisit the manuscripts for the second draft, I cringe at the thought of what would happen if ever some foreign eyes were to befall on this populist piece of (interesting) shit.

At such times, I miss blogging the most, and return to it with renewed zeal. Blogging helps me to vent, even in this sphere of life. It's all for good eventually, because the more there are of the drycleaned manuscripts (and looks like it is just gonna increase more and more), more there will be of the blogs too.


Monday, October 07, 2013

Kyon

My cover version of Kyon..



Kyon from Barfi has been a favourite since it came out in September 2012. It is brilliantly picturised, acted and orchestrated, but best are the lyrics. Love Neelesh Misra. I believe he debuted with Jaadu Hai Nasha Hai and Chalo Tumko Lekar Chalen from Jism (2003), and has been writing some simple but meaningful lyrics ever since with songs such as Maine Dil Se Kaha (Rog 2005), Lamha Lamha (Gangster 2006), Khwahinshon Se (Holiday 2006), Abhi Kuchh Dinon Se (Dil To Bachcha Hai Ji), and occasional candyfloss numbers like Bolo Na Tum Zara (Fight Club 2006).

Lyrics and music rarely act synergistically these days, don't you think? Sometimes lyrics are powerful and the music ordinary, and sometimes the vice versa is true. And sometimes even when both are good, one of them is more overpowering, shadowing the other.

This song however, felt like a team effort between a lyricist, music director and singers. This is Pritam's best album since Life..In A Metro (2007). Sunidhi rarely sings low notes these days, so I liked it how Pritam did a division of labour here, giving the lower notes and the stanza to Sunidhi, and the upper notes of the stanza and the beginning verse to Papon. Had never heard of Papon, let alone his music, and his raspy voice is unique.

PS. Coming back to the lyrics, the first few lines read as if thy are written by Swanand Kirkire with words like 'baanware', 'almast', 'sirphire' 'luke huye'..these are all trademark Swanand Kirkire words. Can it be coincidence that he wrote most of the other songs in the soundtrack? The later lines however, are unlike SK's. 'Lafz', 'harf', I haven't heard these in SK's songs.