Thursday, December 22, 2005

Sony DSC

This is a nifty little camera which basically comes with a lot of modes and quite a few features. Of course, the features are too little considering that it is a digital camera. Plus the configurable options of the features that it has is also very limited. So, it ends up being a very good digital camera to start off with.
I use a manual SLR for most of my photography and I usually pride myself in being able to give the right exposure for different lighting conditions but I have always felt that a light meter would enhance my photos. I never knew how much the light meter is important till I did the series of photos of the beer I was drinking (see below). All three photos were taken at the same time and the same lighting conditions but thy have been metered differently. Notice the enormous difference created by subtle changes in the exposure (of course, the focussing has also played a role in these pictures).
It has the ease of a PnS camera with the sophistication of a amateur SLR camera. I love it!
Next step, get myself the DSLR I have eyeing for quite sometime. Wondering how long it will take for me to buy that gizmo impulsively!

beer experiment 3


DSC00061
Originally uploaded by amathad.

beer experiment 2


DSC00062
Originally uploaded by amathad.

beer experiment 1


DSC00063
Originally uploaded by amathad.

Sony DSC


DSC000591
Originally uploaded by amathad.

I kept away from all those little digicams and would pooh-pooh their professed superiority but when I got one this diwali, I gladly took it as a nice way to meter scenes and that was the only way I was going to use it, which is why I took both my cameras to goa for the IFFI trip. But a few minutes with this gizmo and fiddling around with its functions, I came up with this picture.
Though I still feel that this camera was limited in a lot of functionalities, yet it is a powerful tool in the hands of someone who knows the basics of photography.
Well, enjoy this scene...
I will post more in a while.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I am so spaced out right now...

Multitasking is so hard. I never do good when I am swamped with too many requests. It takes me some time for my mind to get focused on something and when it does and then someone disturbs (and someone has been constantly bugging me for the past few days) my state of mind, I have to start again. Well, what I have go to do is what I have go to do. I really want to get out of office right now but I wont be able to until 9 PM :`(
I have come to realise that I abuse my eyes really too much. The non-stop movie watching in goa has had an adverse effect on my eyes. Last week was partcularly hard with my eyes watering and headaches, etc, which made it extremely difficult to concentrate on the task on hand. My nature of work doesnt help matters anyway.
It is better this week but by the end of the day, the headaches return. Plus, the one hour call from 8 pm to 9 pm doesnt help either...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Films Division of India

Thanks to Expiring Frog, I got this link -- Films Division of India.

There is a huge archive of films that can be watched online. They are streaming videos and cannot be downloaded onto your harddisk, unless you use some recorder software.

Right now, I am getting the films that showcase Indian classical music. They are old videos, quality is not so great but they are awesome nonetheless.

Slow posts...

I know the reviews are slow in coming. I think I will have to spend a saturday or sunday to type up all my reviews of movies I saw at IFFI...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

concise

[IFFI] [Movie Review] My red colored grey truck

Country: Serbia
Section: Cinema of the world (COW)

It is a black comedy set in 1991, when Yugoslavia started disintegrating. An anti-war movie that brings together two people in a world gone crazy, it does a great job of creating an indelible impression of the craziness of the civil war. "Thats the beauty of civil war. You never know who is on whose side."
The movie is about a colour blind truck enthusiast who cannot stop stealing trucks fro joy rides and cannot get a license due to his colour blindness, and about a pregnant junkie who on finding that she is pregnant decides to go to the beach to chill out. The film starts in true Tarantino style with two set of two gangsters - one set of truck drivers who are transporting guns hidden in their truck and another set of middlemen who are paying the truck drivers to transport the guns - killing each other simultaneously, ie, the truck drivers stab the middlemen and the middlemen stab the truck drivers at the same time. And they all die, leaving the truck, the merc and the money just lying around, forgotten by the dead.
Our hero, who is just being released from jail, decides on another joy ride, which got him in jail in the first place, and steals the truck. Our heroine nearly gets hit by our hero and she blackmails him to take her to the beach. They come from completely different worlds and have completely different lives. She thinks him to a be bosnian peasant and for him, she is as alien as any another woman. As they travel through the war torn country, sharing the experience of truck driving and pot smoking, they grow closer and ....
Screwball comedy has always been popular but this is not just screwball comedy but with a deep, cynical statement about the world around us. For example, there is a scene in the movie where the girl rolls up a joint and convinces the hero to try it with this dialogue, "alcohol, marijuana are the light drugs. Politics, news, war-mongering, communism, democracy, etc are the hard drugs" and I was like, "this guy (the director) knows his shit". I would probably add feminsim to that list of hard drugs but would it be covered under Politics? Well, it is a political movement but it is also a very personal movement and the motto "personal is political" tells us so, doesnt it? I think it means that the personal is political and so, it should be... Shit! this guy seriously knows his shit!
After they smoke up, they dance to some light music, oblivious to the world around them that is under war and burning. "I see great balls of fire, like burning haystacks." Wonderful, wonderful!
The director also puts in touches of irony. for example, she wants to pee and he tells to go behind a bush, to which she retorts," I am not one of your peasant girls. Take me to a loo." But the loo they stop at is so dirty that it would have been far more hygenic and cleaner to have gone behind a bush! The director tries to undermine the notion that civilization has brought better things for human beings when it is really that people think that civilization has brought better things.
I would not call it a revolutionary movie but it is a very good example of how cinema can be used to point out the inanities of the world and critique the privileging of the "civilized" world. If I ever make a movie, it will be something like this one...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

[IFFI] [Movie Review] Warm Spring

Country: China


Section: Competition

The first movie that I saw at the IFFI immediately after I received my delegate pass was Warm Spring, a film made by a first time female director. This is a simple story about a waif who is found starved and unconscious by a villager. It is rural china and like all rural places, money is tight and nobody wants to adopt an extra mouth that would need to be fed. Some comment that they would have done it if the child had been a male. Yup, thats right, the male child is privileged in China too. If you did not know about this, then you might know know that women in china used to bind their feet to from childhood to make it smaller (the chinese apparently had a fetish for small feet). Anyway, the child is eventually adopted by this old man who is kind hearted and very near the age that qualifies as old geezer. But he is Zen personified and that makes him the most blandest character in the film. Dont get me wrong, I like the character but I also see it as a sure fire way to ensure zero character development.
The old man has a son with a barren woman who sees the little girl as an insult to her barrenness and tries to get rid of her a couple of times but she is unable to do it. The kid is a sweetheart, who is as kind hearted and innocent as children ought to be. She is also mature far beyond her age, perhaps going by the philosophy that children who face hardships mature faster. She does a lot of housework, helps everyone, is nice and polite, etc, etc. She also has a great zeal to learn and learns to read and write on the sly.
The rest of story is about how she manages to win everybody's heart and how she becomes the first kid from that village to go to college.
It is a great feel-good movie with a strong feminist undercurrent. The wife of the old man's son is stronger than her husband and one time manages to push him and pour water on him when he tries to get her to obey his order. She and another woman in the village, both suffer from insomnia for very different reasons. The former cannot sleep because she dreams of a beautiful baby boy and the latter cannot sleep because she has three naughty boys. Also, a girl becoming the first one from the village to get so highly educated and coming back to teach in the rural village makes the point that girl childs are not only for making babies and taking care of the family but they can better boys in terms of education and achievement in the world.
The cinematography is very good, though the camera work seemed to be a little on the amateurish side. In many landscape scenes, the cameraman does not obey the 1/3rd rule, and that makes the scene lose quite a lot of its potent. A case in point is the final scene which starts out with the outline of the mountains right in the center of the frame and as the scene progresses, it comes down to the bottom third line. In the foreground, the grown up girl and a bunch of kids are running with a kite in hand that trails behind them. As the outline of the maountains comes down, there is a dramatic increase in the impact of the scene. I know you should not be bound by rules too much but in general, the 1/3rd rule is very powerful and it should only be broken when you are making some statement.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Street Harassment in Bangalore

A close friend of mine raised a pertinent question - "do you know if there's anything being done about eve-teasing in Bangalore?"
And I had to confess that I did not know anything of that sort being done but it did make me do a little googling and I came across this ---

Black Noise Project

This is a blog by a woman who is constantly working to create awareness about street harassment in bangalore!

This post that basically is a comment by some person exemplifies the Indian attitude towards eve-teasing. For more details, read the blog.

-----

Update -- This post and its comments are really frightening...

Monday, November 28, 2005

Update

Well, I am in! Thats right! They gave me a pass and everything. It looks like they are not rejecting that many people as I would have thought and it is not very surprising. The theatres are not completely full for most of shows despite there being more than 3000 people registered for the event! That might also be due to the fact that there are 5 screens, each with considerable capacity (500+) and the organisers are probably anxious to keep the hall as full as possible, you know to show that the event was a success and all.
So far, I have watched 5 movies and I plan to stay till Friday and catch a bus on saturday back to Bangalore. I do want to have a day's rest before reporting back to work on monday next.
Will review all the movies I see. Am already writing them in my notebook (pen-and-paper-notebook) and will put them up once I get back to bangalore.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

It is 2.04 pm here in goa...

And it is quite hot out here; a far cry from the cool bangalore I was in a couple of days before! The weather is quite like the people of Goa. The day starts out sleepy, moody, lazy. In other words, cloudy. Goa seems to wake up in the later morning and after a few sunny hours filled with buzzing activity promptly goes back to sleep as soon the the afternoon sun come out of the clouds with full intensity.
It is a place where the people are friendly, polite and helpful. Good food, great service, cheap beer and... topless women. Yeah, as if you didnt know :P They seem to extremely fond of shedding their upper part of the clothing quite literally at the drop of the proverbial hat. Anyway, I am guessing some of my readers (namely my mom and my sister) may not like if I keep going in that tangent, I will drop it at the present.
Thats it for now. Will post after I get to know what happens with the IFFI thingie...

Madhat is back in GOA!

Thats right!
I am back in Goa! But this time I am alone and I really have a motive for coming here. The motive is quite guessable to those who know me intimately and keep in touch with current affairs.
For those who do not know me and have come to this blog through a search engine, I am here in Goa to try getting into IFFI (International Film Festival of India). I had decided to apply to the festival beforehand but my really forgetful mind made it impossible to come true. So I ended up being left with no real hope of knowing whether they would allow me to be part of the festival.
For a long time (for me, it is like an hour), I contemplated whether or not to make the trip to Goa and try to influence the organisers into letting me register. I had no idea and being a little pessimistic, I decided that there was no real hope to get into the festival. The only window of opportunity was that one of the criterion for registering was "Member of cultural bodies" and I have been part of SPIC MACAY for a long time. Though I was the coordinator of the Le-Montage club for an year, I did not have the proof for that as I do not have the certificate with me and anyway, it was two years ago.
So, I decided to try my luck and bought a one-way ticket to Goa. Left Bangalore on friday and the bus reached Panjim at arounbd 11.30 am on saturday. By the time, I got a room, a shave (to make myself presentable, after all I had to make sure that they did not turn me away thinking I was some ruffian trying to get in), and reached the venue for IFFI, it was 1.30 pm. The registrationm would reopen at 2.30 pm. So, I loitered around and when I came back, there was a big queue to register.
I got into the queue and filled in the form. The person asked me for proof that I belong to SPIC MACAY and I thanked my foresight for this possibility. I had been to Manipal for the Annual National Convention of SPIC MACAY and I had brought the conference bag and the delegate card from that event. Other than that, there was no real proof that I was part of SPIC MACAY.
Though they have accepted my application, they still have to approve it and I would get to know whether I am in or out today!!!
So, I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that the organisers will not disappoint me. IF I do get the thumbs up, I am sure to stay here for the majority of this week, even till the end of the festival and I hope to chat with some of the filmmakers about their art! Wish me luck!
The rest of the time has been spent test driving my new sony cybershot and generally roaming about goan beaches catching the beautiful scenaries and drinking a little beer. Interestingly, I have not had a proper meal in all this excitement!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

GMail is very thankful today...






7 things the Gmail Team is thankful for this year













  • Our families... 4 engagements, 7 weddings, 11 new babies, 1
    reunion, and 1 cross-country move by a fiancée so they "don't have
    to do the long-distance thing anymore" so far this year.

  • Each other—the little family we've created here makes it fun to
    come in to work, especially on days when we play kickball.

  • Winning the "PC World World Class Award" for being

    #2
    on the list of

    The 100 Best Products of 2005
    . (We don't mind being #2,
    especially to Firefox. Plus, it gives us more to work for.)

  • Google Video, and

    one fan's video
    we love in particular.

  • The horn
    of plenty
    and the guy who drew it.

  • You, our users. Yes you.

    Again
    . Still.

  • Cheese. Brie, goat, cheddar, the stuff we write on our home
    page... :)


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Big Five Test Results
Extroversion (26%) low which suggests you are very reclusive, quiet, unassertive, and private.
Accommodation (52%) medium which suggests you are moderately kind natured, trusting, and helpful while still maintaining your own interests.
Orderliness (56%) moderately high which suggests you are, at times, overly organized, neat, structured and restrained at the expense too often of flexibility, variety, spontaneity, and fun.
Emotional Stability (62%) moderately high which suggests you are relaxed, calm, secure, and optimistic.
Inquisitiveness (86%) very high which suggests you are extremely intellectual, curious, imaginative but possibly not very practical.
Take Free Big Five Personality Test
personality tests by similarminds.com

Another silly online test but I like the results :)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Pink is the colour of ...

Well, came across a rant on how parents enforce gender based stereotypes on their children. You can read it here. Do read the comments that follow.

I agree to most of the factual things that the post says, regarding how people view dressing up and playing with dolls as girlie stuff and not something "little boys do". It is evry hard for the kids who just want to have a nice time and are not really thinking about those gender stereotypes that are reinforced by the people around you - you know those who make all those "gay cracks" around the kid who is playing with dolls.
I also think that kids should be left on their own. They should be allowed to do whatever they enjoy doing and not be forced to stick to an agenda of growing up. But there is a caveat. We need to realise that kids would be influenced by the people around them. If they keep hearing gay jokes made one him (I am talking primarily of male kids), he might start identifying himself so and might be more confused if he is actually not so. I suppose it takes a bit of mentoring and talking to the kid and helping him understand the cruel and stupid world that we live in (sounds too philosophical a discussion to have with a child? Well, sometimes kids surprise us with their sensitivity. Adults' senses have generally become dulled by the process of "living").
I totally blame the society and I get very angry when I see people treat their kids irresponsibly but like quite a few people's experience, as seen in the comments, I could not have done anything as by dint of begetting them, parents get a right of authority over their children that borders on dictatorial. They just do not allow the children to grow on their own. Yes, there is no doubt that some of them love and care for their children but most of them are not mature enough to have kids and usually screw up the child's life more than helping him/her grow.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A post after a long time

After a long time, I finally get around to doing something that I have meant to for a long time.

I have updated my "Blogs I read" section that you can see in the right side.

Read these for timepass---

I, Student

Random blurts from the faculty

Outfoxed

People make mistakes

more posts to come. I promise!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The simplicity of the Hibiscus


49000015
Originally uploaded by amathad.

It is a simple flower, perfect for pedagogical purposes, and beautiful to look at. I dont think there are many like this marvelous flower...

One experimental night


49000001
Originally uploaded by amathad.

Tea Garden


49000037
Originally uploaded by amathad.

The dynamics of the Nilgiris


49010031
Originally uploaded by amathad.

Friday, August 12, 2005

How can things be so in plain public view???

Read this story on rediff!

A man accused of rape is sentenced to one day's imprisonment on humanitarian grouds!!
What are those grounds? He has four mouths to feed and he is sole earning member!
I cannot believe this. After all these years, we are still living in the middle ages. Makes me sick!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Another one!

You scored as Intrapersonal. You prefer your own inner world, you like to be alone, and you are aware of your own strengths, weaknesses, and feelings. You learn best by engaging in independent study projects rather than working on group projects. People like you include entrepreneurs, philosophers and psychologists.

Intrapersonal

100%

Verbal/Linguistic

96%

Visual/Spatial

75%

Bodily/Kinesthetic

75%

Musical/Rhythmic

71%

Interpersonal

71%

Logical/Mathematical

64%

The Rogers Indicator of Multiple Intelligences
created with QuizFarm.com

And this one surprised me!

You scored as Satanism. Your beliefs most closely resemble those of Satanism! Before you scream, do a bit of research on it. To be a Satanist, you don't actually have to believe in Satan. Satanism generally focuses upon the spiritual advancement of the self, rather than upon submission to a deity or a set of moral codes. Do some research if you immediately think of the satanic cult stereotype. Your beliefs may also resemble those of earth-based religions such as paganism.

Satanism

100%

atheism

83%

agnosticism

79%

Buddhism

71%

Paganism

71%

Islam

63%

Judaism

42%

Christianity

29%

Hinduism

17%

Which religion is the right one for you? (new version)
created with QuizFarm.com

I mean, Satanism! Wow! Now that is something.

Intrestingly, Hinduism scores the lowest.

A test score....

Got this link from Sriyansa and these are my scores ---

Wonder what Cultural Creative means...
I do agree with the Existentialist score (the postmodernist score goes without saying :)


You scored as Postmodernist. Postmodernism is the belief in complete open interpretation. You see the universe as a collection of information with varying ways of putting it together. There is no absolute truth for you; even the most hardened facts are open to interpretation. Meaning relies on context and even the language you use to describe things should be subject to analysis.

Postmodernist

100%

Existentialist

81%

Modernist

75%

Materialist

75%

Cultural Creative

63%

Fundamentalist

44%

Romanticist

19%

Idealist

19%

What is Your World View? (updated)
created with QuizFarm.com

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Train memories

This post by Annie has brought back memories of my college days, which were not so long ago. I have travelled a lot of times along the Kanpur-Delhi route, mostly to go home and come back to the place I studied. It is an overnight journey as most of my readers would know and I would not eloborate on the trains that ply between the route.
The first time I travelled was with my parents and that was an entirely different issue. The first time I travelled alone on a train was with Gaurav Pandey in the first mid-sem break of the first semester and we had decided to get into the general compartment, which acording to Gaurav is usually empty. Boy, how wrong he was! I had never ever travelled in general and the first time I did, I resolved never to travel in general again, a resolution that I never kept. It was cramped with people and there was absolutely no place to sit! I ended up sitting on the floor and by the end of the journey, I was very, very tired. My back hurt and I was kind of pissed at having subjected myself to it. Of course, the future held far more masochistic deeds, like travelling from Kanpur to Delhi in a bus in December, one of the coldest months of the north. Of course, it was a trip I never repeated as I felt that it would be detrimental to my health (I was literally blue by the end of that trip).
Being in a college which was far from the city and in general, being a lazy ass, I never really got around to booking railway tickets. I would usually buy a general ticket and bribe the TT 50 bucks for a berth in the sleeper compartment. Sometimes, there would be no seat in the sleeper too and I would have to find my own space much like Annie had to do on her trip. But it usually gave you a sense of how cruel and inconsiderate people are. I remember being one of them when I used to travel with my parents with a ticket purchased by my father. I would feel guilty and ashamed of myself at the same time whenever I hogged somebody else's place. Guilty, because I was encroaching and ashamed, because the behaviour the other person exhibited was not quite unlike my behaviour before. Once I had to sleep on the floor and I felt about how countless people in this country go to sleep on the floor somewhere, which is a public space and I was more ashamed at my own feelings toards these poor, homeless chaps before.
Yes, travelling by trains those days in that manner gave you a very realistic picture of our country today and made me feel empathic towards those thousands of travellers who use the trains to travel ticketless. I mean how could people find the money to buy tickets when they cannot even afford their next meal.
So, when a new train was introduced between Kanpur and New Delhi that started in Kanpur, it gave me an opportunity to travel by general again. That I did, yes, that I did. And this time I connected with the people on the general. I noticed that in most cases they were humble and quite nice people with no pretentions of superiority or affability. I would make space for them and they for me. I knew that there is a great majority of people who travel by general and without tickets. They could not afford it. The general ticket costs 100 rupees and this is still a very large amount for the vast majority of people in India. Sad, but true.
When the train was new, I could easily get onto the general compartment without any trouble but as the news of the new train spread, it became more and more difficult to get onto the compartment. As the train approached, there would be a mad rush to get to the doors of the compartments. And there they would wait till the doors were opened and after much jostling, you would get on the compartment to find every place was occupied and the only place one could find was on the floors. As the rush increased, I found myself back in the sleeper compartments.
But I still remember those days of travel by general... Those days were amazing.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Bangalore, O' Bangalore!

It has been a long time since I wrote something meaningful on this blog (or anywhere else, for that matter). The reason has been simple. I have become lazy. Yes, again. The laziness to write has afflicted me ever since I started giving serious thought towards the words that I write. My writing has been sporadic and extremely unorganised. I had thought that I would keep up my writing but it hasnt really happened mainly for lack of inspiration which I attribute to the soul-less work I am forced to do to carve out a living. Dont ask me why I do it. Because I wont tell! :)

One thing I do these days is read. I read a lot. Every night I curl up with a book and read upto 200 pages per night. Then I wake up the next morning and go to work. I like reading. It keeps me company and some of these books I am readin really appeal to me. Currently, I am reading The Man by Irving Wallace, Love in the time of cholera by Marquez, The Ultimate Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Katha short stories (vol 4), and many other books. I recently bought more books too, including God Emperor of Dune and Focault's Pendulum. Perhaps, i should respond to Jaya's book tagging me. It is something that I will have a lot to say about. But right now, what really moves me to write is the itch to write something, anything. And that is the reason for this let out of feelings.

Perhaps, I should tell you about last weekend when I freed my mind to the domains of things not imagined or perhaps, I should spare my readers of my craziness. But there is something about Bangalore that I cannot resist. I have never been known to be a outdoor guy. The common complaint in my home, whenever I do go home, is that I sit around on the sofa and watch TV all day and my mother always keeps telling me to get out of the house and taste the world outside. Even in IITK, I would never really leave my room, not even for my classes. Partly the reason why I graduated late.
Soemtimes, I felt that I have missed something by not being a very outgoing guy and I have wondered at people who can never stay at home. So, when I came to Bangalore, I decided that I will not let myself be confined within the walls of the room/home and will taste the world outside. Bangalore is a great place to live in. There are a lot of things one could do here and it is the ideal place to roam around, because of the weather. So I like to just walk around aimlessly. It has happenned a couple of times that I have walked for hours, covering quite a lot distance, exploring new places (perhaps, it is the Diablo effect) and pondering over things that prevail over my mind. The weekends have always been the time when I could be free from my day job and have fun my own way. Once I walked all the way from Miller's road to Indiranagar and another time, I walked from Chinmaya Hospital to Ulsoor lake, spent a couple of hours there and then I walked through Commercial street, Bowring hospital and then I turned left to St Marks road where I followed MG road and entered my usual weekend haunt. It was a long, long walk but I felt rejuvenated after that. To get into Ulsoor lake was a fight and I had to walk a long way to get an opening into the place. But by the side of the lake that afternoon, I could not help wondering where else could I have walked so far in the middle of the day and feel so happy about it? The weather is one big factor in favour of Bangalore but though, there are a lot of things I hate about this place.
I think I am beginning to like this place a lot better than what I endured the first few weeks, when I thought this was a pretentious, over-rich, highly commerical place with people whose heads where filled with goo and there is nothing substantial here. It is a place where the extreme economic difference that exists is starkly visible. A place where people move around in cars and the footpaths are in the worst possible condition.
Not that I have changed these opinions of Bangalore but there are things I have come to know that make it a great place to hang in for now. One could possibly have fun and also be his own self in this place and there is a diversity of people that astonish you at first, which is refreshing to see and experience. You meet people whom you would not have met otherwise. I think my outdoor life in Bangalore is partly due to the paucity of my wingmates here and the reason why I live alone these days. I like it like that, without anyone disturbing you and doing whatever I could in my cosy little home.
Sometimes, I wonder about the path that has laid itself before me and which I have gladly, if not enthusiastically, taken up and I think that it is a pretty good compromise, even though it does not give any satisfaction. I realise that, much like my aimless walks in Bangalore, I have been afflicted with an aimless existence, one that does not appeal to me but one which is inevitable.

Monday, June 27, 2005

[Movie review] Batman Begins

The Batman movies have all been generally bad. The worst being the awful "Batman and Robin" with Arnold playing the character of Mr. Freeze. So, I did not really expect Batman Begins to be anywhere near good, in spite of being directed by Christopher Nolan, of Memento and Insomnia fame. The trailers did look promising but the title didn't. Batman Begins? What kind of a title is that? Very unimaginative, in my opinion. So, though the trailers were quite attractive, all I expected was a two hour action movie that in some way would chronicle the rise of Batman.
Batman's early beginnings are bit of a mystery but his parent's deaths are pretty well-known for the emotional impact it had on young Bruce and the reason for his becoming Batman, the terror of Gotham's criminals. It is also a well-known fact that Bruce feels guilt for the single most devastating event of his life and how it has really shaped his thinking.
Batman fan would also know that Batman is always on the edge of darkness; on the threshold of being a good guy and becoming a beast, a fact that Joker uses quite regularly to taunt him into doing something quite beastly. He is unlike other superheroes, not only in that that he doesnt have any super-powers but also that is he is not completely goody-goody, incorruptible hero but is one who is human being susceptible to anger, violence, etc like any other human being and that is something that the comic fans like the most.
None of the earlier Batman movies were able to bring out the complexities of the Batman character or that of Bruce Wayne. They have all been focused on giving the audience a thrill ride with uber-cool stunts and gadgets, and are thus, generally despised by Batman fans.
The new Batman movie does have some good action but the focus is not on the action but on the evolution of Batman. It starts with the introdcution of Bruce's fear of the bats and his guilt for the death of his parents and then, goes on to show us his complete disenchantment with life and his curiosity about the criminal mind.
Enter Liam Neeson, as Ducard, who takes up the training and shaping of Bruce's induction into the League of Shadows but Bruce refuses to do what he thinks is wrong.
Bruce returns to Gotham and resumes his high-profile life, along with the birth of Batman. The film then traces Batman's first, clumsy attempts at being the "Dark Knight" and the sophistication of his equipment, methodologies, and symbols. The batmobile is quite unlike the ones we have seen before, which have invariable been sleek, sexy machines. This one is really is a tank and "comes in black"! It is not sleek but is definitely an effective transport for Batman's entries and exits (and not just through the waterfall).
The music is racy, and weel attuned to the pace of the movie which races past the several milestones in the creation of the Caped Crusader. The acting is good in general and the casting has been great, well, except for maybe Katie Holmes. Didn't really liek her in this movie. She sounded crass and her relationship with Bruce is not well-sketched. The casting is great because of the fact that Caine makes a great Alfred and Neeson makes a great villain and Ken Watanabe makes a ninja warriors' leader! Of course, Christian Bale does a decent job as the Batman but I couldnt help wondering why they could not find a better and more imposing actor...
Since it is a Nolan movie, I really do not need to eloborate on the technical aspects of the movie, which were without blemish. The best scene was that of Batman standing on the top of a Gotham skycraper, watching down on the streets, recreating the gothic look and feel of the comics.
Also, the comic relief nevre forced and is just at the appropriate timings and never exceeds more that is necessary. Liked the "Didnt you get the memo?" and "Actually sir, I was thinking about myself."
I have read reviewers that have generally trashed this film but interestingly praise the Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt starrer Mr and Mrs Smith! They really piss me off...
Anyway, the movie is worth more than a look as it is a great flick, much better than the Spidey adventures 1 and 2, and certainly better than the previous Batman movies.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

[Book review] Q and A

I had heard a lot about this book and the lot I had heard were, in general, in praise of the book. But having been deceived by the rave reviews of another book by an Indian author, I was on guard and did not buy the book. I tried to get this book through easylib.com but it was booked for quite a long time and a week ago, I finally got hold of this book.
Ok, the idea is interesting - it is about a pennyless waiter going on to win "Who wants to win a billion?", a fictional quiz show on the lines of KBC.
So how was the book? It was marginally better than Five point someone. Where 5.someone is a book written by a 9.someone about 5.someone, this book is written by a high-powered officer in the IAS about a poor, powerless waiter! An indication of the extreme social, economic, and status difference can be noted by the author's description of the sleeper compartment as containing 6 berths in all but in reality it has 8 berths. Only the First/Second AC compartments, which are the used by the rich and powerful, have 6 berths in each compartment.
The book is poorly wirtten and extremely-bollywoodish, though it was marginally better writing that 5.someone. The plot is so bad that it becomes hardly bearable. I managed to read it completely only in the hope that it would end better but that was not to be. I hated this particular book and I think cynicism regarding the rave reviews it got was well justified.

The book paints a very bad picture of India. Not that I say that India is the best place in the world or even that it is not that bad but it just seems to be quite over the top.

I could say more but I think I will just say this - this book is not worth the time.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

[Movie Review] Hung-Fu Hustle

Once upon a time, there were movies created by east Asian filmmakers that were characterised by bad acting, bad direction, basically bad everything but for one small reason, they were extremely popular - it had reasonably "exciting" action (compared to the dishum-dishum style of fight scenes of the films of those days, these were much more well choreographed). This was the beginning off a genre of films that commonly came under the banner "kung-fu flicks".
Then came Bruce Lee and in just four movies, took the genre to the dizzy heights that it came to occupy in the minds of millions of movie-goers around the world. Still his movies are maudlin, badly acted and poorly directed (except for Enter the dragon).
A genre always tries to transform over time as nobody likes to see the same thing over and over again (Bollywood guys, are you listening?) and Jackie Chan, with his Polics Stories and Armour of Gods, created a new niche for himself by mixing comedy with action and reinvented the genre and renewed the popularity of kung-fu movies. Of course, Chan hasn't made any more innovation over the years and still continues to make the same type of films even today.
Wire-fu was the next innovation, introduced by another famous action star, Jet Li. Wire-Fu is the technique that you see being used in such films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Matrix, etc, etc.

I have never been very fond of Kung fu movies, in general but have always loved watching Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and some good movies like CTHD. Kung fu movies have become more polished over the years and are better acted and directed these days but they still need to be reinvented to keep the popularity level that high. Matrix is a case in point. It combines fantastic action with a superlative script and needless to say, it did well.
I saw Kung-Fu Hustle over the weekend and I have come to the conclusion that Stephen Chow is the next best thing in this genre. His kung-fu is of the world of fantasies and quite unrealistic but realism is definitely not what he is after. His earlier movie, Shaolin Soccer, was on similar lines where a team of Shaolin Kung-fu afficionados make a soccer team and the story is about the exploits of this team. It was brilliant because it was so unrealistic and comic. I liked it a lot and that is the reason I went to see Kung-Fu hustle just to have a good time but came out with an intention to write this review.
The film was dubbed into english and it was the worst dubbing I have ever come across. It looks like a amateurish dubbing job and I would have preferred a subtitled version. Yet, I loved the film and I think it is a vastly improved from SS. This film has more finesse and is a carefully made one too. The acting is not AStreecarNamedDesire-great but is quite good for a movie whose intentions is comedy.
It is quite obviously influenced by Asterix comix. I will not tell how but the Axe Gang is metaphorically the Roman soldiers, the leader of the Axe gang could be seen as the one of the Roman general leading one of the camps around the village and the Assasins are Caeser's men who try to conquer the village and the village itself is called Pig-Sty colony whose residents are as dysfunctional as the Gaulian village.
The movie itself looks like a tribute to the older thriller movies. Whether it is the music, or the dancing, or the maudlin performances, I cant say but each do contribute to the effect that you are watching one of those old hindi (and english?) gangster movies.
The best thing about the movie is the portrayal of the transformation of the hero from a bumbling street scum to The One (and the references to Matrix do not just end there). It is beautifully done and I loved it. It happens quite late in the film by which time, I had become extremely curious as to what heroic deed the hero does in the film.
It is a fun movie from start to finish and I liked the way it ended. Now, go watch!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

TV blues

Someone reminded me of TV serials we used to watch when we were kids and I was reminded of things I had not forgotten but things that are so on the past that they rarely surface to the councious layer of the mind. I have such vivid memories of certain things and practically no memory of others that would have happenned quite recently. I can recall the time I got a bloody lip and had to get it sutured when I was about 2 years old! Some memories stick, I guess. And one of such memories is that of our antennae.

We lived in a pseudo-village that was slightly outside a small town called Chengalpattu (aka Chengalpet) in Tamil Nadu surrounded by tiny hills. The free-to-air DD signal was weak and to get a decent picture you had to have this tall, huge antennae pointed in just the right direction. Naturally, the antennae planted on the top of our building, which was one floor high (unlike the multi-storey buildings that seem to be in fashion these days), held to the parapet by three (or two, I forget) steel clamps and held in place by three steel wires that were tied to the middle of the vertical shaft leaving it in three different directions.
Being some 60 kms from Mahabalipuram and hence, at most 60 kms from the sea, we would get pretty gusty winds during the monsoons and any student of geography will tell you that Tamil Nadu is the beneficiary of two monsoon seasons. That explains the steel wires, doesnt it? They were there to make sure that the antennae pointed in the right direction after a night of gusty winds. The clamps were not sufficient as the big antennae twisted easily in the wind without the steel wires to hold it in place.
Yet there were times when the antennae would get twisted in a night uncontrolled gale winds, which would be quite often, would make the antennae twist around in its clamps. After that, there would not be a clear signal and sometimes it would frustratingly happen right in the middle of a movie or just before a serial we watched. There was nothing we could do but to turn off the TV and wait for the weather to settle down to its non-truculent self. That would usually mean that the rest of the day (or night) would be spent in the company of school books (my mother was very strict about "story books").
When the sky cleared and the atmosphere had gotten off its roller-coaster ride, we would go up and try to re-align the antennae to the signal. As we did not have any other way of knowing whether it was at the just angle, we would shout to and fro from the balcony to the house about the status of the clarity of the picture and sound. After twisting and turning the antennae into the right position, we would return happily to watch Door Darshan.
Every year, it was the same story and it got worse when we got a colour TV! The antennae for the CTV had more ribs and was taller than the BW one and so, it would get more easily turned in the wind.

When I remember this, I never remember the anguish we felt when the weather would rob us of a tv show but I remember how much fun it was trying to fix the antennae direction and how ridiculous it would look in these modern times of cable TV. We had two channels to watch and we never had any complaints about the contents of those channels. Nowadays, we have some 100 channels and all we get to see is trash. I surf the channels in the hope of finding something that would attract my interest but end up turning the TV off frustrated by the futility of the whole exercise after a couple of cycles. Is it that hard to produce a meaningful serial? Or is it that the "intelligent" minds of the Indian people has rotted away? Frankly, I cannot answer these questions. Once, there were some useful programmes on TV and we enjoyed watching them but now, I am worried about the future of the children fed on the trash that masquerades as programs in this age.
Oh well! the future of this country is already in the trash can. We feed on trash, imbibe trash in ourselves and live a trashy life.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Musical weekend.

I went to Manipal to attend the last day of the SPIC MACAY national convention. Why the last day? Because it is the day when you get to hear great music all night long. Jeen haan! An entire night from 8 pm to 6 am of classical music!
Manipal is about 400 kms from Bangalore and it takes around 10 haours to get there by bus. An overnight journey which is very comfortable in a nice luxury bus and on a highway, it posed no problems to me. It is near the sea and Magalore, which is quite nearby is a harbour city.
Manipal itself is entirely centred around the famous Manipal hospital and medical college. It is a town which gets its identity from the completely commercial enterprise of providing higher education. Though I was aware of Mainipla hospital and MIT (dont be confused, it is just the Manipal Institute of Technology), I was not aware of MIC (communication), MIM (management), etc, etc. There is also a polytechnic institute and other such things. They gave me a prospectus along with the conference bag but it is something I have misplaced.
The place is hot and humid, and I spent most of the day sweating like a pig. There was this occasional cool spell when clouds gathered but it did not rain much while I was there. Monsoon is around the corner and is the season of pre-monsoon showers. So, it is natural to expect the place to be humid but the humidity was alarmingly high and it was extremely uncomfortable in the day. Fortuntely, the all-night concert was being held in an air-conditioned auditorium.
I got introduced to SPIC MACAY chapter members of Bangalore and I have been invited to one of their weekly meetings during lunch and I sat their concluding session.

The evening started with carnatic classical music - violin by T N Krishnan, vocal by TN Seshagopalan, and flute by N Ramani. After this we had Hindustani - Ashwini Bede(Vocal), Asad Ali Khan (Rudra Veena), F Mansur (Vocal).
All of them great excellent performances and it was a delight to hear them. Ustad Asad Ali Khan was at his best as usual and Ashwini Bede's voice echoed off the farthest walls with the same (high) intensity. for all those morons who watched Indian Idol (I believe, it is some 15 crores), I would suggest them to hear Ashwini Bede or TNS or F. Mansur, but then their brains probably do not have the capability to appreciate a truly great voice.
I was particularly impressed by Ustad Mansur. He began with raag Bahnkar (or Bhakar) and I was mesmerised by it. His performance was the first time I heard a vocal recital from start to end with the same (high) enthusiasm. Of course, I love Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, etc but I have never heard them live and if you have ever been to a live concert, you will know the difference between that experience and listening to a recording.
I would love to get hold of Mansur's recordings (is there somebody willing to share ;). Need to start hunting places in Bangalore where I can get quality classical cds...
I do not have words to describe the experience of an all night concert. It is something that I do not have words to describe.

Though, I did go as far as Mangalore (in fact, further than that), I did not visit any of the visitable places and there are not many pictures. I was too absorbed in the music after a while...

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Convocation

Today, I get my degree (in absentia). Interestingly, I get a degree that certifies me to having learnt something that I havn't really learnt (well, thats not completely true, I guess) and I do not get a degree for what I really learnt over there. :(
Such is unfairness of the world of degrees. *deep sigh*
The day will pass every other day and in a few days, hopefully, I will get my degree by mail.

Monday, May 23, 2005

[Short story]A page from a diary

I take off my shoes as it is difficult to walk with them on. The sun is at its noon-high and my feet feel the heat that has been so greedily absorbed by the sand. I dance a little in the same place trying to acquaint my soles to the heat with each step. The fine silica grains gush in between my toes every time I lay my feet thus increasing the surface of skin in contact with the sand. A few steps have proved me wrong. It is more difficult to walk barefoot as the discomfort due to the burning sensation in my soles. I try to run but in the absence of a solid ground, it is a slow and tedious task. The beach seems a long way away and I stop on a mound of sand with some grass growing on it. It is cooler here and I rest here for a few minutes before making the final leg of the journey to the cool spray of the sea.
Standing on the beach, I eye the sea respectfully. She keeps spewing up these huge waves displacing tremendous amounts of water that by the time they get to where I stand have petered out to meek stream. I stand there admiring the vast empty expanse and am reminded of what Newton said. "I am but a little boy collecting pebbles on the beach while the vast ocean of knowledge lies undiscovered before me." Though he was speaking metaphorically, I understand the full import of those words only now. Human mind is incapable of imagining vast amounts and you never know how big the ocean is until you stand on the beach and all you see is water till the sea meets the sky. I am reminded of the frog in the well from the famous fable and I smile at the thought that I was the frog until now. And yet, I do not see the complete stretch of the sea.
While I was peering at the horizon, the sea and the sand have conspired together to root me right there. There is sand all around my feet which are almost buried in the wet, slippery surface. A roar and a wave goes crashing down into the water and comes to slish-sloshing with the joy akin to one who has just stepped off the ferris-wheel at the amusement park. There the water receded as its energy ebbs and it returns for another ride, and my feet have sunk deeper into the sand.
Just like that, I have been anchored. No questions asked. No introductions, no discrimination. The sea accepts all who come to her beach equally and provides the same, unfiltered joy that enthralls everyone regardless of age, sex, religion, or race. Once I was a little boy, free of all worries and troubles of the world; ignorant but curious; and filled with optimism and in active grip of unadulterated happiness. But here I am, shoes hanging by side held by two fingers of my left hand, lower part of my pants wet and sticking to my calves, knowing that I will have to return back to the drill of the real world tomorrow but still currently in a state of complete bliss under the Sun God who is right above me and with the Sea God at my feet.
Do we know each other? Slish-slosh, slish-slosh.
What time is it anyway? Slish-slosh, slish-slosh.
What is this place? Slish-slosh, slish-slosh.
Is this heaven? Slish-slosh, slish-slosh.
Is this where I...? Slish-slosh, slish-slosh.


Lost. It's murky here, or is it misty? I cannot tell. Am I a part of the murk? I cannot say. Just a vague, formless matter surrounds me. Free, floating, am I? Am I still or am I moving? How can I tell in this place which looks the same in all directions? Relativity, you say? Time? It does not seem to matter here.
A distant sound. There! I hear it again. Is that... laughter? Sounds like a distant thunder. I cannot see who. Or fathom why.
A child's laugh! It is getting closer. A form pops up to my right. I recoil a little, startled. It smiles and I see the face of child with naughty eyes and a refreshing smile. What is it in a child's face that makes us forget everything? Is it the blessed ignorance that allows them to experience a world as full of wondrous things or is it the attentive and sponge-like nature of their inquisitive minds that is slowly tempered by society into passive inactivity?
Follow me, his eyes say. Where? In an instant, he is gone. I grope furtively in the mist, trying to find him. Where did you go! Come back! He is gone and I have been left alone. I feel myself thrashing around in the murk trying to scoop it out and make it possible for me to find where he went. In a few minutes, I am tired and have given up.
Just when I thought I had lost the one possible clue to the mystery of the situation, he returns with impatient eyes and a tight expression on his face.
Why didn’t you follow me?
How could I? How could anyone see anything in this dense fog?
Fog?
he says as if the word was something new to him.
Yes! Don't you see it? It is all around us. So dense that I cannot find myself in it.
He laughs again and says with mysterious eyes, It is as clear as water. There is no fog. Maybe your vision is clouded.
I stare at him amazed at this revelation. I do not believe him. Yet I rub my eyes with my hands. Perhaps, I am going blind. Cataract? Oh! I never thought I had gotten so old. Fear of the loss of my eyesight seizes me and it is terrifying. I shiver at the thought being made to live this life without eyesight.
Looking at my anxious actions, he laughs again, a loud, ringing laugh.
Why do you laugh?
At you! Your foolishness is amusing to watch.
I am much too distressed to reply.
There is nothing wrong with your eyes.

And he is gone. Just like that! Leaving me to ponder over what he had just said. I do not understand. I close my eyes and it is much the same. See, he said but see what? A thousand questions rage through my mind and in the whirlpool of this storm, there is no answers. Where do I seek these answers? Whom do I ask? Why doesn't He answer me? 'See', he says!
I open my eyes and I see myself on the beach, rooted into the sand and with the waves higher and reaching more and more inland. I pull my legs out of the sticky sand and I walk along the beach for a little while. The sun would go to sleep in a few minutes and while he remained, I see his golden rays forking their way across the ocean and the play of light is hard to turn away from. I watch the sun go down into the vast expanse of the ocean and hand over the realm of the sky to the moon.
As the night deepens and the stars come out to play, I am still on the beach wondering where I would go at this time. Whose door to knock on and where to sleep. Sitting on the beach there with sand all around me, I realized that I had already knocked on a door and been granted admittance. It has been a long and tiring day, both physically and mentally. I lie down right there and shut my eyes for a few minutes.
B... BLI... BLINK...... BLINK...... BLIIIIINK.... BLIIIIIIIIINK......... BLIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNKKKKKKKKKK......... BLLLLLIIIIIIIII but I do not finish that blink as I feel something hard bury itself in the side of my stomach. I get up fearing some large animal has taken a fancy to me when I notice that the object that has disturbed me is a leather shoe worn by a constable's foot.
"Oye! Who are you and what are you doing on the beach at this time of the night?" His accent is hard to follow and I understand the meaning of his question by a couple of words and his gestures.
Before I could answer his question, he notices that I am a tourist and asks instead, "Where do you come from?"
I tell him and he rudely tells me something that I take to mean that I am not welcome to stay at the beach. I argue with him for a while trying to explain that I just a harmless tourist but he does not seem to understand me or is too stubborn and he shakes his head to everything that I say. It quickly deteriorates to a futile effort. I get up wearily, and a little sad as these would be the last few moments I spend on the beach as I have to take the early bus home if I am to get to my work on time.
I collect my shoes that were lying nearby and I turn around to leave.
See! His words come back to me. But see what?
I look at the constable and what do I see? A uniformed enforcer of the law of the land who seems to be doing what his duty commands him to do? Laws of the land? No, more like laws of the society! Which seem to be quite out of the sync with the land that it is supposed to represent. A society whose laws seem to restrict some of its own members to do something quite harmless as sleeping on the beach; laws made by a few and enforced by a few and obeyed by all for fear of punishment by those in power just because that they have a gun or a post.
What do I really see? The disparity between reality and the actual? The difference between nature and man-made monstrosities. Yes, mankind has constructed a lot of things – material, philosophical, knowledge. Some call it creation but destruction always goes hand-in-hand with creation, does it not? Arnt the Nuclear bombs a direct application of the quantum theory and Einstein's E=mc^2? So, can we really create a better world without destroying?
Is there no hope at all?
Yes! The voice says. But you have to see with unclouded eyes.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Another view of the butterfly


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Originally uploaded by amathad.

The butterfly I told you about...


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Originally uploaded by amathad.

First close view of the place


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Originally uploaded by amathad.

Jesus Christ reloaded


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Originally uploaded by amathad.

More of the glorious sunset


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Originally uploaded by amathad.

My personal favourite


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Originally uploaded by amathad.

Sunset


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Originally uploaded by amathad.

Sunset


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Originally uploaded by amathad.

Sunset at Honnemarudu


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Originally uploaded by amathad.

The smiling monster...


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Originally uploaded by amathad.

[Short Story] The winter of our lives

He squeezed his car in the space between two Maruti 800s in the cramped parking lot after spending the last fifteen minutes trying to find a suitable place to park his car. He never liked parking his expensive car in Indian markets as he was paranoid of getting a dent from one of the thousands of nincompoop drivers who had bribed their way to a driving license. He sighed and opened his car door which hit something metallic within a few inches of its movement. The movement of the car door was blocked by the adjacent car, leaving no room for him to get out. He cursed and moved over to the passenger side and tried the door there. Again the door was hindered in its motion but here it opened a significant bit more than its counterpart on the other side and he managed to squeeze out of the car. Locking his car was not a problem as he had the latest remote-controlled locking system that allowed him to secure the car at the press of a button.
He knew that the shop was going to be filled with people shopping for the coming festive season, which was exactly what he was here for. Usually in this season, the shop would be teeming with women and their husbands trying to get the attention of the over-worked and overwhelmed salespersons. The hustle and bustle of the shop never ceased to scare him and he always wondered why people would forego a little comfort over long waits in endless lines in an oxygen-scant environment to save a little money but then having been born with a silver spoon, he had never experienced the everyday financial pressures of a typical Indian middle-class family.
He walked the mile from his parked car to the shop, every step heightened his anxiety that he would miss the window of time during which his friend in the jewellery shop took his break. An old college friend of his, who had after graduation followed his father’s footsteps into the jewellery business by becoming his father’s replacement in the shop, working as one the store’s several helpers had told him that if he could come during his break he could help him but that he would not be able to go show him variety or give him much time to choose. At least, this way he could circumvent the crowd and finish his chore without wasting a lot of his precious time.
Nearer the store, there is always this horde of beggars who badgered the shoppers into giving them the alms that would feed their hungry children. They particularly targeted the upper middle-class men and he was no exception. With his designer suit, swiss watch, and RayBan sunglasses, he was the perfect target for them. He always gave alms generously as the sight of the improvised and their misfortune was unbearable to his eyes.
He stopped to look at the shabbily dressed woman with her child clutched in her arm. Her clothes were so filthy that it seemed that dirt from the entire world had claimed residence on her worn-out old clothes. The semi-naked child was as dirty as herself and there was no evidence of a chance to take a clean bath for weeks. It was sights like these that made him stop and wonder at the contradictory nature of the uparwala, the almighty who giveth and taketh. He dropped a ten-rupee note into her tiny cup and disappeared into the crowd that thronged the shop before she could realize what he had done and thank him for his generosity as he would have been embarrassed by the undeserved gratitude that she would have expressed.
The store was an old, famous enterprise that had built up its reputation as a trusted shop where the products could be reliably bought. It was a store that his mother would occasionally visit tagging him along with her when he was a child. Those days it was a smaller building and it was never crowded. All his sisters had got their wedding jewels made in this shop. He remembered being fascinated with the care with which the ornaments were passed around, with sighs of wonder as it passed from one female member of the family to another. Sometimes, he would be made to offer his neck as a model for the piece of gold. The joy of wearing jewellery was stayed with him for a long time and he was renowned in college for being the only guy around who could be found wearing multiple forms of gold at any point of time.
After the death of his father, his mother had to stop wearing jewellery in accordance with the norms that a widow had to follow and it had been a long time since she had visited the shop, much less bought an ornament for herself. So much had changed about the shop since then including the responsibility of the business passing to a new generation and a new entrance gate which he noticed was flashier than the one he remembered from his childhood days. The old doors were made of rosewood and were huge, giving the formidable impression of a fortress, unlike the small glass doors that opened into the shop now. As he walked inside, he noticed the interiors had changed too in quite the same way as the doors. He came out his reverie when somebody pushed from behind and without uttering a word of apology, the interloper moved on. He quickly glanced at the time and realizing that he had only had a few more minutes, he forged ahead.
Dressed in his designer suit and expensive sunglasses, he looked the part of an imposing picture of a son of a rich industrialist with a lot of connections, both political and financial. People rarely resisted such a person jumping the line and would make way for him when he had the words, excuse me, on his lips. Occasionally, he would have to explain that he was not there for some other business when he met with the occasional stern looks from a person who indicated towards the line. They usually bought his story as he did not look the part of a person who needed to save money.
As he trudged on through the milling crowd, his senses were swamped with a lot of sensory data. The extreme proximity from all sides, the nauseating smell of sweat mingled with the stale air-conditioned air of the environment, the loud conversations of different people, all combined over-worked his senses. Yet, amidst the entire mental disturbance all these different sensory activity was causing him, his brain sub-consciously noticed something familiar. He would never know what it was that caught his attention. He would forever think that it was providence that played a role in this chance happening. Whatever it was that caught his attention, it drove everything else out of his mind.

The tapping on her shoulders made her whirl around suddenly and look at the person beside her. She let out a short gasp followed by a swift movement of her hand to the open mouth as her mind recognized the person who had disturbed her, “you!!”

He looked at her mutely, struggling to find a word to express his surprise at finding her in such an unexpected place. She was wearing a cotton chiffon saree, the kind that was ideal for this situation, which had a nice pink design on it. Her hair was bunched up and her sparse jewellery consisted of the a pair of gold bangles, a ring on the ring finger of her left hand, a chain around her neck that was mostly hidden under her saree and a pair of studs in each of her earlobes.

The moment of recognition had passed but still the excitement of having met someone from the past remained, albeit a shade lesser in intensity compared to the initial shock.

“I thought you had gone forever and that I would never see you again.” And then she felt the anger surge through her and she said testily, “you did not even have the courtesy to answer to my letters!” It was much like the anger she had felt when a long time ago she had a punched a young cock-sure kid had mocked her in a playground. She had been playing with her friends when this new kid came to play with them. Wearing branded T-shirt, shorts and new shoes, he clearly different from the rest of them who were mostly attired in old clothes and chappals. It was a game of street cricket that they were playing and they let him join in the middle of the game. He had considered himself to be good at the game but when his bowling was taken apart and that too by a girl, a sense of shame and subsequently anger filled him, and he started calling her names. The argument became more heated but was brought to an abrupt end when he found himself on the ground after a fist had filled his field of view. It had been such a long time ago but it also had been the start of a remarkable friendship that had lasted a very long time but they had drifted apart some years ago. She smiled as she recalled the look of extreme fear on the face of her harasser as he looked up her with his bleeding nose. The smile squelched the ire she had felt earlier and she said, “Do you remember the first time we met?”

Relieved, he replied, “Of course I do. For a moment there I thought that there was going to be a dramatic re-enactment of that scene for the benefit of all these people.”

“Well, you always had the ability to vex me.”

He was about to note that it was not his fault that her temper flared for the most insignificant thing when he noticed that she was not alone. Listening to their conversation with an interest that could hardly be that of an eavesdropper was a man who could have been only one specific person.

“So, this must be your husband”, he said to her.

Reminded of his presence, she responded, “Yes, he is. Of course you wouldn’t know. You didn’t even respond to my wedding invitation. Not even the customary congratulatory message of an individual who hadn’t been able to attend it...”

Then she introduced them to each other. Her husband turned out to be an engineer in a construction company.

“Oh, you are the one who got the bloody nose! I have heard all about you!”

“In my defense, I did not know that she was taking Karate lessons. If I had, I would not have taunted her.” He continued,” After that, I befriended her in the hope that she would protect me but instead I had to suffer the bruises her punches gave me for years. I bet you are a victim of a little domestic violence.”

They all laughed at that. He noticed that her laughter was subdued now; it was more of a smile than a laugh. Her laugh had been legendary. She used to have a loud, neighing kind of laughter that carried a long distance which was embarrassing for her parents. They had had tried to discipline her laugh but had never succeeded before. It was that laugh that had rung out in the middle of a college play, at a moment that had not written or played out with an intention to make the audience laugh. The memory of that day was very clear in his mind as it had been very embarrassing for him; embarrassing because he had just made his entry and had spoken his first dialogue of the play on stage. It was a play they had worked on for weeks and he had been particularly proud of his part in the play and had enthusiastically gone about working on different aspect of it. He had procured the costumes, translated the dialogues from English and had taken gotten the props specially made. His enthusiasm had made her come to watch him, in spite of the fact that she had her mid-terms the next day. The play was A Streetcar Named Desire and he was playing the part that his idol Marlon Brando had played in the movie version of the 1950s. It would have two of him taped together to have looked like Brando from the movie and so, when he came out dressed as a sailor and spoke his first dialogue with the lisp of the Godfather, she had been unable to contain herself and had burst out laughing. It was much later, viewing at the photographs of the play and imagining his scene on the stage, when he realized how ridiculous he had been playing Stanley. Her laughter had showed him what he had tried to depict was quite contrary to what he was in reality. That laughter that had disappeared into the annals of human memory leaving nothing but a trace of its former effervescence in the years that had intervened between that day on stage and today where all she could produce was a little air. Yes, she had changed. Time was like the wind in the desert, always making, destroying or shifting the dunes of sand.

“I see that your fingers are bare. I take that as a sign of your bachelordom, am I right?”

Her husband’s question startled her and she grabbed his right hand and then his left. She looked at him with an unspoken question in her eyes and he immediately knew the reason for her puzzlement. But what could he say? The truth was that he had just lost his interest. Over the years, his passion for the one thing he really loved had declined and he had not noticed till it was too late and by then, he had become indifferent to it. He answered her with a barely noticeable shrug that was more expressed through his eyes than his shoulders.

“Perhaps it is with the intention of ending that freedom that you are here?” he continued in the same tone. He was completely oblivious of the silent exchange between the two old friends whose language could hardly be expected to be interpreted by a person out of the ring of the friendship.

“No, not really. I am here to buy a present for my mother and my sisters.” He was glad for the diversion. It gave him the chance to avoid the awkward moment that her husband’s observation had created. He went on about his mother’s love for the Mizhakadi style and how she still liked to peruse through her ornaments though wearing them was a taboo she strictly observed. On being asked about the Mizhakadi style, he started an elaborate lecture on the origins, features, virtues and beauty of the style, and how it has been on the decline on the popularity measure over the past century, and how he had trouble finding shops that made jewellery in that style and even if they did, there was a great paucity in the variety and number of designs allocated to it. He went on and on without realizing that he had long lost the attention of his audience. In part it was an attempt to circumvent the sticky query in her eyes and in part, it was a lost passion that had suddenly been given wings to let itself be expressed.
He had always been passionate about the theatre and had at one time wanted to be a theatre actor. It usually took him about a week to change his intended profession but the ambition of becoming a theatre personality lasted for far more than that. He took acting classes and voice modulation lessons, and she had to admit that he had become quite adroit at pitching his voice the most effective way for every situation. Hearing him speak on his pet topic now made her recall the heady days when his mother disapproved of his every career plans. As a concerned mother, she wanted him to be successful and she chastised him for wasting his time on what she considered to be frivolous activities. They would regularly have heated arguments over the matter, which usually ended with him walking out in a fury. It seemed like only yesterday that he had left his home in a huff, packing his bags and with hopes of a success in the theatre world. Yet, it wasn’t the same person who stood in front of her now. He did not seem to have the restless energy that characterized him in their more youthful days.
Looking back at those long lost times with nostalgia, she wondered she would be able to reconcile with her past self the emptiness that she had willfully surrounded herself with in the present. There were times of great ambitions and great rebellious behaviour, and somewhere along the way they had petered out… Lost in the myriad alleys of the past, she did not realize that he had stopped his monologue and was looking enquiringly at her. She smiled in an attempt to hide her unhappiness that was evident in her demeanour.
What was she thinking so deeply about?, he wondered. Is it just nostalgia or something more?
Seeing her had reminded him of the times of their youth when time seemed endless and they were eager to become independent. They had dreamed together of a life free of all obligations and expectations.
As it always happens when in crowds, they were pushed so close together that they could feel the hot air of the others’ breath.
They used to think alike in the old days and they instinctively knew the others’ state of mind. It had not changed much in spite of the gap in friendship all these years. A gesture was enough to get into the skin of the other. They say old habits die hard.
They also say that your eyes are the windows to your soul. One could peep into them and look right into your heart. Perhaps, that is only true among old friends…
It was like the years that had separated them had not managed to separate them actually and in an instant, they knew what the years had done to them. She knew why he had given up his dreams and followed the conventional path that leads to success as society defines it. And he understood why she had entered wedlock in accordance with the wishes of her parents and entered the household of another patriarch with whom she was expected to live out the rest of her life.
In that instant when they peeped into eachother’s lives, they sensed a mutual feeling of loneliness, a loneliness which breaks the walls of resistance of the toughest human being, a loneliness that grows in intensity rather than lessens in the company of human beings, a loneliness that can only be shared, understood and alleviated by old friends. You could do nothing about this loneliness as it so overwhelming that everything seems futile and you accept the changes in your life that you resisted against with great fervour before.
Inevitable, the world had changed around them and they too had with it. The flow of time had slowly eroded their identities. He was now known as the son of so and so, and she, the wife of so and so. Their lives were not their own anymore and it saddened them deeply to find the other in the same state as themselves.
The crowd jostled them violently and the spell of their private moment was broken.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Trek!

Ok, I finally get around to doing this. In my defense, I have had a pretty full week so far and there are still one and half days left of it (well, three and half if you count the weekends). I still have to type in my second story that has been lying around in my notebook for some time now and publish it and start on my third story (perhaps even work on the story I started in delhi).
But all that later and let me tell you what I did the last time I got a couple of days off, ie, last weekend.
I got off early friday evening as the call (which sucks the evenings of my life) was cancelled! Yippee! I could take an easly bus to get to Honnemardu. Before you start wondering why that particular place, let me answer it for you. It is all because of this doctor in Bangalore who took this picture and this one. The picures as you can see are simply great. Well, he does take great pics. Anyway, I loved the pics so much that I decided to go there. Plus, I got to know that to get there, you might have to walk 14 kms (or take a taxi). I wanted to go trekking anyway and the result was that I packed my bag super-fast and was at Majestic by 7.30 PM.
Honnemardu is near Shimoga town and the more famous Jog Falls. It is also a place which is very near the place, Ambikanagar, where we (me and my sis) spent some summers at my doddappa'a home. That place was a small settlement in he jungle and my doddappa worked as an engineer in the dam nearby. I have some pleasant memories of that place and some unpleasant ones too. I did not go as far Ambikanagar(that I reserve for another day) but I did get to Talaguppa at 4.30 AM saturday morning after a comfortable eight and a half four journey from Bangalore.
Talaguppa is a small village some 90 kilometers from Shimoga and 19 kms from Sagar. It is from here that you start walking to Honnemarudu. And walk, I did.
It was 4.30 AM and I was a little apprehensive as I was in a alien village with noone in sight. Which direction was I supposed to take? I could hardly pick one and start walking because that had a possibility of not leading me where I wanted to go! I walked a few paces and there was someone about. Asked him. "Go straight and then take a left at the next circle and then take another left at a sign which says Hiremane." I thank my Dad for his Kannada lessons which enable me to read kannada signs. Ok. I go straight but I come to a fork in the road. Hmmm.. which one is "straight"? I feel like the nameless Samurai in Yojimbo, played exceptionally by the legendary Toshiro Mifune, who in the beginning of the movie encounters a fork in the road and decides on the path pointed to by the stick he throws up in the air. I was not aimless and though I very much wanted to emulate him, I could not have done that. :( So, here I waited for a while for another good samitarian to pass by to whom I could I ask the question. Presently, I get my wish and I move on...
Thanks to my kannada skills, I manage to find the turn that I am supposed to take and from here it is apparently 10 Kms away. Well, I was of course aided my the sign in English which read "Indian Institute of Adventure Applications, Honnemarudu" with an arrow that helpfully pointed out the way. Finally, I find an umambiguous sign that tells me where to go in this thinly populated place (or at least a place of late risers). I take it as a sign from God. Oh! I forgot! I do not believe in Him.
The road is a tar road and some of the scenes I saw are this, this, and this. It soon gives way to a mud road protected from the rain by stones embedded in it which finally gives way to a simple dust track.
The soil was red and was a delight to the eyes in the morning light. There were many beautiful sights along the way and I have tried to capture some of them, especially this beautiful flower that I saw along the way. I was shooting at f/5.6, 15 and I was afraid for the outcome on two counts - one because shooting at 15 increases the chance of a camera shake and two because f/5.6 means a very short dof which means that if I do not focus perfectly, the flower would be out of focus. I had to wait till I got the prints to see how it came out (damn you! DSLR-owners!).
Beautiful flowers, lovely sights, interesting villagers, etc, etc, later I finally get a view that stunned me when I first saw it. When I saw this, I instantly knew that I would love this place (not that I was not already in love with the place but this view promised the 'paradise' that Moses promised the Hebrews and made them walk around in the desert for 40 years and well, I had walked for like four hours). It was with this shot that my roll ended and from this point on I used a BW film (pro film that costed me Rs. 238) that is still in development, which means that you fine folks (my adorable readers) will have to wait till tomorrow to see the pictures of the rest of the place tomorrow!
As I continued walking, I was keeping an eye out for the IIAA (with whom you were acquainted earlier) base camp that is supposed to be around here. I nearly missed it but for the alertness of its inhabitants. They asked all sorts of questions and offered me tea. Here in this serene atmosphere where the temperature does not seem to rise above 35 degrees and where there is always a cool breeze emanaing from the lake, I think I found an idea of the place I want to live in. There is no use for electricity or for mosquito coils. Life as a farmer is hard work and not a very rewarding at that too. I do not plan to farm but I do plan to live in such a place one day. In the company of unbridled nature, it is a paradise unfathomable to the city-lovers.
One of the kids brought a twig that had a big, beautiful butterfly stuck on it. For a while, I thought that it was dead but it looked like an about-to-burst over-pregnant mother that was stuck on the twig in the hope that it would be an ideal place to lay its eggs. Got a couple of pics of the insect. Wow! I have been here for a few minutes and I was already discovering new things!
They offered food and said that the first boat ride was free. I denied the boat ride as I am very apprehensive of these small boats but then the water was very calm and it did not look like a dangerous thing to do to go out in a boat. After talking to them for a few minutes, I went outdoors to the rim of the lake. It was a beautiful sight. Since it was May, the water had receded but that was a good thing as a lot of interesting, otherwise submerged things were visible (wait for the pictures).
I walked along the banks which was made difficult by the rocky terrain and slippery sands. I got around to a some rocks that were shaded from the sun by the branches of some trees. Tired from the four hour walk, I slept for a couple of hours here.
ZZZZZZ
*later*
Yawn! Lovely place to sleep. Now the Sun beckons me out of my sleep and enjoy the afternoon. It is always best to shoot pictures in the evening or morning light. so, I wait by the banks for the sun to wear out and go to sleep. It is a lazy afternoon dotted by occasional raids of my bag for a bit of the chocolate cake.
Got to know Mohan, the little kid that brought the butterfly around. asked me a lot of questions about my tripod. Pretty smart kid! He told me not to litter the place! I was like, "Wow!" gave him the rest of my chocolate cake and he brought be some pakodas!
A lot of people came and went. A group of college-guys came and made a lot of noise. I was a little pissed at them for breaking the tranquility of the place. But 'Boys would be boys', I suppose.
The evening came and I clicked more pictures. It was just so beautiful and I kinda rued the fact that I loaded a BW roll in the camera. Perhaps, it would have been better if I had used a colour film. Only tomorrow will tell.
The light quickly fades after the sun sets and I am left groping in the dark for a good place to sleep. The wind it quite brisk and I struggle to find a place that will shade me from the chilly breeze. Having found one, I spread my bedsheet and sleep on the earth (which was what I had planned). After a few hours of tossing and turning and dreaming of alien abductions and sadistic, nocturnal creatures rising out of the lake, I fall asleep because I am too tired to walk back to Talguppa at this time of the night.
Contrary to my expectations, I slept very well and when I woke up, it was 6 AM. Took a few more pictures and started back. Wanted to reach Talguppa before the sun came up and it became hot.
I made it back to Taluguppa in two and half hours! Perhaps, The lesser walk time was because of the fact that I did not take frequent breaks to photograph the surroundings like I did on the day before and the fact that I knew the way back without any assistance from passer-bys.
Then took a bus back to Bangalore.
*The End*

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