Thursday, October 15, 2009

KK’s Death Anniversary, Panipuri, A Birthday Party & Many More Memories

I was lucky yesterday (13th Oct) to hear Singer Srinivas live in concert commemorating the 22nd Death Anniversary of Kishore Kumar.

As always, I was nearly an hour late in reaching the venue, and could hear the last strains of one of favourites Mere Dil Mein Aaj Kya Hai from the film Daag, when Dad was taking me out of the Autorickshaw.

And, by the time I reached my seating place another of my favourites Jeevan Se Bhari Teri Aankhen from Safar came to an end.

Momentarily, I became sad thinking that how many of such gems I’d missed. But, it just passed over as the next song began; like that there were at least two and half dozen more songs in store, none less likeable or favourite than the previous.

My day was made when my request for Meri Bhigi Bhigi Si, a song from Anamika was entertained. Srinivas sang the first stanza without any support from the orchestra because they had not practised it.

I remember the day Kishore Kumar died in 1987 very well. We were celebrating my cousin Sagar’s 9th birthday (he become a very vital part of my life in following years as he wrote most of my exams from Plus I to the completion of my Degree). Ma had prepared Panipuri and Falooda. We were in the kitchen enjoying. I heard Kishore Kumar ka Dheant from the TV; made Ma run out for getting the details, “it was heart attack beta”, she said and continued serving us.

At that moment none of us realised that we’d just lost a legend.

Here is an interesting write-up about Anamika by my friend BG.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Still I…

Invade my sleep
Devastate my dreams
Wrench my heart
Or suffocate my soul
Still I…

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Trying To Grow

My review of Trying To Grow by Firdaus Kanga has been published (modified) in the Apr-Jun 2009 issue of Success & Ability.

The wish to reread an old book may be same as wishing to meet a distant cousin whom you had only met for a few days in your childhood, and, those days are the most cherished memories of your younger days. Now, you feel scared that he may have changed, may have lived a life totally different from yours, and, may have grown up to be temperamentally exactly opposite of you. Then how will you greet him? Hug, shake hands or just say Hi?

I felt the same kind of trepidation when I took up Firdaus Kanga’s semi-autobiographical novel Trying to Grow (recently relaunched by Penguin in paperback). I had read the (borrowed) hardbound version some twelve-thirteen years ago. Those days I was still in the Sidney Sheldon, Harold Robbins, Jeffery Archer, and Arthur Hailey phase, and, Indian English writing was still in nascent stage (I hadn’t read any except a few books by R. K. Narayanan). So, though I was charmed by Kanga’s writing I wasn’t capable of enjoying it in its full lustre (there was a burden that I was reading something very important that I may not be able to appreciate fully).

Trying to Grow tells the coming-of-age (clichéd Bollywood phrase, but trust me it has lot more going for it) story of a boy born with Osteogenesis imperfecta (Brittle Bone Disease) who would break every bone if exerted slightest pressure till the age of five.

This book can be described as showing what roller coaster ride a disabled person’s life in India can be through eyes of Daryus Kotwal nicknamed Brit (as in Britt Ekland and not punning his medical condition as justified by his ten years old sister Dolly when he was born).

Brit’s story may feel funny and frivolous on the surface from the beginning when Brit as an eight year old is taken to a Miracle Man Wagh (tiger) Baba by his father Sam. The Baba does not wear any clothes and as expected turns out to be a fraud. Even the dialogues amplify such situations, especially between Brit and his sister Dolly are laced with innuendos and baser connotations that we fear that their relationship may be bordering on incest.

It is only when we put our analytical caps on that we realise that this just a ploy by the author to lull the reader into a comfort zone (as a scheming boxer would wait patiently for his opponent to let his guard down to give him the knockout punch) before letting him know the harshness of the world occupied by the disabled.

More than the pathos of the protagonist (we doubt for that matter if there are any going by his jovial outlook) who would not grow more than four foot, the story focuses what the people surrounding him go through. His parents are always doubtful of what to dream or aspire for their ill-fated offspring. They are always in conflict amongst themselves, if one of them feels gung-ho about his prospects the other paints a bleak picture. And, his sibling Dolly is the epitome of unconditional love, she is ready to sacrifice her joy to give happiness to her lame brother.

In short, anyone who has grown up in India in the last few decades with severe disability and normal intelligence will have at least a few anecdotes to point and say this has happened in my life. Perhaps except the sexual encounters that our hero Brit was lucky to have (maybe I’m jealous).

Here are couple of snippets that stayed with me after I finished the book for a second time:

When Brit gets a Surprise Special Prize from the School on their Annual Day where he went write exams after studying sitting at home and coming fifth in the class:

Around me the applause burst and swelled like some orchestral climax while I grew smaller and smaller in my seat wishing I wasn’t there, wishing Father Ferra hadn’t talked about me, wishing I hadn’t got this prize for having legs that didn’t work.

And, here is the recklessness of forgetting ones disability and jumping into insurmountable situation:

Funny, isn’t it? When someone is the way I am, you’d think he’d never forget it. But I do. For hours, days. Till I pass a mirror or am ditched at the library.

And, coming back to meeting a long lost cousin: I was as charmed by Brit Kotwal as I was thirteen years ago and felt like giving him a brotherly hug.

Monday, July 06, 2009

On Smoking

A slightly edited version of this write-up has appeared in Apr-Jun 2009 issue of Success & Ability.

One dreadful thought that I had as a teenager was that I can never be a writer because my left hand was dysfunctional. And, it wasn’t that that I couldn’t use my right hand to write, it was just the hypothetical image of a successful writer that I had in my mind; a bearded fellow at his table, half a dozen of reference books, dictionaries/thesaurus etc. scattered around. A fountain pen in his right hand with a sparkling golden nib going about making a fuzzy sound as it scratches an A4 size paper. His left wrist working as a paperweight holding down the paper he is writing on; a luminous glow emanating from between his fingers with addictively fragrant smoke.

So, somehow I got this impression that smoking cigarette was vital if I wanted to be a good writer (can’t pinpoint today how that idea got into my head). I always cursed my crooked left hand (with the wrist protruding outward, elbow folded at an odd angle and the fingers remaining in a perpetual fist) whenever I failed to write something as well as I wished or read something really good and felt it was beyond my capability to write like that.

Those days smoking wasn’t a social taboo or even a criminal offence as it is now. We could see people freely enjoying it, whether it was an elderly uncle at home, or the rickshaw puller puffing away his twenty five paise worth of Beedi or Mammootty or Amitabh Bachchan lighting up an imported brand of brown cigarette on the silver screen.

The craving for the nicotine induced smoke virtually made me a sniffer dog. I would be always looking out for smokers in the vicinity and tried to drag in as much stuff as possible of what they exhaled.

The harmful side effects of the cancer sticks started sinking in when Doordarshan became the most vital part of my idle life. It had a couple of anti-smoking Public Service commercials. One was a simple message showing cigarette bending downwards from the centre signifying impotence. Other one was more impactful, which ended with Gary Lawyer carbon monoxide affected baritone singing with a cigarette in my hand, I was a dead man. More material started appearing in the print media about the ill effects of cigarettes; from simple bronchitis, coughing, impotence to deadly cancer. All this information curbed my wish to be a smoker.

It was really scary to imagine myself coughing incessantly, while making serious effort to write. I’d the problem of breathlessness as a child; it came with an itchy feeling in the chest and phlegm induced gruff sound. It made me invalid and miserable for a few days. Memory of those days returned whenever I came out of the movie theatre with hundreds of live chimneys (working non-stop for nearly three hours) around. I would have the same feeling in the chest as I’d have during the breathless phases as a child. So, it acted as a deterrent subconsciously. But, still.

A more frightening nightmare was; what will happen to my intellectual image if I became hairless as a side effect of chemotherapy? My craftily unkempt beard, bushy eyebrows and thick sideburns that could hide my large ears; what’d happen to them? I’d be reduced to being as smooth as a mannequin. And, above all, thoughts of those tubes and needles pierced into every penetrable part of the body; as they show terminally ill patients in the movies.

But, it didn’t root out the craving fully. I got a few opportunities take a puff or two here and there in my mid twenties, when I made a couple of friends who were courageous enough to take me out alone (without the protective shield of the family). But, they were reluctant about me trying a cigarette; their logic; you can’t even swallow a morsel of fried rice without coughing for half an hour, what will happen if you drag too much smoke? There was lot of advising before the tobacco roll was put between my lips; make your lips dry, this thing is expensive, don’t drag too much, be careful that smoke doesn’t reach your throat, be absolutely calm etc.

On the other hand, my writing aspiration starting chugging ahead, couple of my write-ups appeared in the newsletter of the Spastic Society of Eastern India. And, a few letters were accepted by newspapers and magazines. Those things gave me momentary joy. After the initial excitement of seeing my name in print, depression wrapped around me; a feeling of disappointment came over with a thought that if I could do it; it must be very easy. The wish to smoke took a back seat. But, it did not vanish fully. Meanwhile, opportunities in writing became better by the day; from amateur to professional.

Once I read an article by the late actress Priya Tendulkar where she wrote that her father playwright Vijay Tendulkar had this peculiar habit of keeping a packet of peanuts and chickpeas on his table while writing and putting a handful into his mouth in between. After that I insisted to Ma to put a bowl of peanuts on my table every evening. But, that too flopped because of my left hand; I had to stop writing/typing whenever I felt like eating from that bowl.

Then one day I heard Saint Sunil Gavaskar while doing commentary talking about peculiar habits of some of the players when they came out to bat; his fellow commentator asked whether he (SMG) chewed gum or took a stroll in between balls. Gavaskar curtly replied; “I did neither, I’d rather focus on the next ball instead of chewing gum or taking a stroll”. From that day onwards I have even stopped playing music when I’m working.

Has anyone coined a phrase like ‘deformity is bliss’? After going through the process of writing this, I feel it is.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Where are we headed?

A fabulous music video on Environmental Activism; I love the earthy tone and the acoustic music.

Got it from Salil Bhai’s blog, my second best writer hero after Alexis Leon. Can any post of mine be complete without his mention?

Read their life stories here and here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My Friend Sancho

Read this book by former journalist and avid blogger Amit Varma. It is an extremely likeable book in spite of some flaws. The first thing you notice is that uses everyday language and is not pretentious as wannabe on the Booker long-list next season.

It tells the story of Abir Ganguly, a 23 years old journalist covering crime for an afternoon tabloid in Mumbai. Abir comes as a happy-go-lucky guy with an acidic sense of humour, which almost lands him in a soup every time he uses it. Later we realise that we are privy to his thoughts as this is first person narrative (giving the reader a schizophrenic feel as the narrator himself maybe feeling).

As for the tale; Abir becomes a hapless witness of Police killing an innocent person by suspecting him to be a gangster, and as fate would have it he become the protector of the victim’s teenaged daughter (doing B Com) for the next few days. To complicate matters further he starts to fall in love with her. Above all, she is a Muslim named Muneeza (nicknamed Sancho). So, what happens when she comes to know that he was an embedded journalist waiting outside her house (with a photographer) for the Police to arrest him and bring him outside, then silently going away knowing that Police has botched up by killing her father?

The story flows smoothly as Abir tries his best to make the most out of the complicated situation. On the one hand, he is supposed to write a sympathetic profile of Muneeza’s slain dad. And, when he is half way through, he is ordered to include a similar piece on the Officer who shot him.

The writing does become heavy in between as Abir philosophises on various issues that he has to tackle, about his love for Muneeza and lot of other things that makes us doubt whether the protagonist is really 23 or he is 32?

Another slight blemish is the promotion of author’s blog by Abir, which makes us doubt if Amit Varma is a fan of Yash Raj Films as they have become the masters of self-reference in recent times.

I’ve no idea if there is any subtext in the use of Sancho in the title as I’m not very familiar with the Spanish classic from which it is derived.

You can find two cohesive reviews of the book here and

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Got this video from Sister Amrita’s blog.

Just spare fifteen minutes & have a great day/night according to your time zone.

Monday, June 01, 2009


Change is the only deterrent
In putting my emotions in black and white
They wax and wane as the moon in the sky
The only thing constant in my soul
Is the love for you;
The ferocity of which never wavers

Thursday, May 07, 2009

I Wish

I wish to hold your cheeks

In the cup of my palms

See sparkling stars in your iris

And convey how precious you are

In a speechless conversation

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Borrowed Words

It was but yesterday we met in a dream. 

You have sung to me in my aloneness, and I of your longings have built a tower in the sky. 

But now our sleep has fled and our dream is over, and it is no longer dawn. 
The noontide is upon us and our half waking has turned to fuller day, and we must part. 

If in the twilight of memory we should meet once more, we shall speak again together and you shall sing to me a deeper song. 

And if our hands should meet in another dream, we shall build another tower in the sky. 

And, as it has become customary in this blog for the last few posts; another Ghazal by Jagjit Singh from the album Love Is Blind:

samajhate the magar phir bhii na rakkhii duuriyaa.N hamane 
charaaGo.n ko jalaane me.n jalaa lii u.Ngaliyaa.N hamane
ko-ii titalii hamaare paas aatii bhii to kyaa aatii 
sajaaye bhar kaaGaz ke phuul-pattiyaa.N hamane
yuu.N hii ghuT ghuT ke mar jaanaa hame.n ma.nzuur thaa lekin 
kisii kam-baKht par zaahir na kii majabuuriyaa.N hamane
ham us mahafil me.n bas ek baar sach bolane vaalii 
zubaa.N par umr bhar mahasuus kii chi.ngaariyaa.N hamane
Lyrics are taken from here

Loose translation:
I understood. But never kept a distance/
Burnt my fingers trying to light a few lamps.

How could any butterfly flutter around me?
I always decorated the place with paper flowers.

I was ready to die feeling suffocated/
But never displayed my limitations to a heartless person.

Uttered the truth only once in that gathering/
And, felt embers on my tongue for a lifetime.

(I hum this Ghazal after every reckless adventure I take without discounting my limitations and then fail miserably. I promise to insulate myself emotionally after every fall. But, having the nature of a dog’s tail, which never straightens whatever you do. I never learn). 

This is the 49th post on this blog. I’ve never took blogging seriously. So, no celebrations on reaching half century or anything. But, it has been a heck of an experience (“life-changing” wouldn’t be an exaggeration). First of all, I found the courage to expose my disability. I wouldn’t have done that if I’d continued writing in print media alone (in fact, the Feature Editors of the newspapers I wrote for realised the severity of my physical condition only after accepting and agreeing to publish my first submissions). There are a few people who probe if I’ve a dent in my personality. But, that is a small issue. Above all, blogging has won me a few good friends, who enrich my life on a daily basis. Thank you chums.

Thursday, April 09, 2009


Flippant moments
Intense moments
Shared moments
With hands held
Lonely moments
Wishing for companionship
Lived moments
Unlived moments
Never realised Life just passed by
With those cherished moments

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Intensity and a bit of Pamuk

I first heard Apne honton par sajana a few years ago (they were my pre-computer days. So, it must be roughly eight-nine years). I was charmed by the intensity of its lyrics by Qateel Shifai. Jagjit Singh’s voice worked its own magic (being one of my all time favourites). Scouted for the album for months before spotting it in a cassette shop in Ernakulam.

apane hoTho.n par sajaanaa chaahataa huu.N 
aa tujhe mai.n gunagunaanaa chaahataa huu.N 
koii aa.Nsuu tere daaman par giraakar 
buu.Nd ko motii banaanaa chaahataa huu.N 
thak gayaa mai.n karate-karate yaad tujhako 
ab tujhe mai.n yaad aanaa chaahataa huu.N 
chhaa rahaa hai saarii bastii me.n a.Ndheraa 
raushanii ho ghar jalaanaa chaahataa huu.N 
aaKharii hichakii tere zaano.n pe aaye 
maut bhi mai.n shaayaraanaa chaahataa huu.N 

Loose translation:

I wish to decorate on my lips/come I wish to hum you.

By dropping a few tears on your shawl/wish to convert droplets into pearls

I’m tired of remembering you/now I wish to be remembered by you.

The whole locality is engulfed in darkness/wish to burn my home to brighten it up.

My last hiccup should come on your lap/wish my death also to be poetic.

PS: the 3rd stanza is missing in the video. The fourth one is my favorite.                                                                                                       

Now a beautiful passage from Istanbul: Memories of a City by Orhan Pamuk:

At least once in a lifetime, self-reflection leads us to examine the circumstances of our birth. Why were we born in this particular corner of the world, on this particular date? These families into which we were born, these countries and cities to which the lottery of life has assigned us – they expect love from us, and in the end, we do love them, from the bottom of our hearts – but did we perhaps deserve better? I sometimes think myself unlucky to have been born in an ageing and impoverished city buried under the ashes of a ruined empire. But a voice inside me always insists this was really a piece of luck. If it were a matter of wealth, then I could certainly count myself fortunate to have been born into an affluent family at a time when the city was at its lowest ebb (though some have ably argued the contrary). Mostly I am disinclined to complain: I’ve accepted the city into which I was born in the same way I’ve accepted my body (much as I would have preferred to be more handsome and better built) and my gender (even though I still ask myself, naively, whether I might have been better off had I been born a woman). This is my fate, and there is no sense arguing with it. This book is about fate…. 

There are two reasons for this post:

1. To push the embarrassing previous post to the second place.
2. To fight the superstition that I can’t finish reading a book if I copy a quote or passage before completely reading it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

AirTel Marketing trying to turn me into a Megalomaniac

I received this Table Calendar in courier from my cellular service provider AirTel. Wish they had just given me few thousand free SMS’ (my lifeline) and a few free calls for my parents to use instead of spending this much money on making this calendar.

PS: A special thanks to my shy friend for helping me to scan this thing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A flowing river is never the same

I’ve heard the above phrase in a spiritual discourse or read in a book (not Paulo Coelho). It came back to me when I heard Kabir Bedi say this:

They (Bollywood) have this fantastic tradition called the narration. They pitch a film to you, not with the script. But by a narrator that comes to your house, it could be the director, it’d be the writer, it’d be a professional, who comes just to narrate the film. And, they give you this fantastic narration; almost shot to shot in its detail, and, you better remember this narration because you’ll never ever hear it again. And, secondly, when you’re given pieces of films, because films are never shot in order; scene eighty five followed by scene three followed scene one fifty two. You better know where all those pieces fit because you’ll never hear the story again and, there’s no script to go by.

to Riz Khan here about how actors are approached in Bollywood.

(Please don’t miss Kabir quoting Walt Whitman at the end of the video).

This talk reminded of an article on Hindustani Classical Music by Raghav R. Menon published in the Hindu Folio talking about the transient quality of Ragas:

Ragas had always been timeless and without history. For there are no old ragas just as there are no old rivers or old oceans or an old wind.

And, googling for the title phrase to check whether anyone else has used it lead me to this beautiful song:

You can get the lyrics of the song here.

This profound post by BG is the inspiration behind this ho-hum.

A couple of thanks:

A big thanks to my friend MM for sending me the audio of the song mentioned above.

And, a friend who is very shy of being introduced here for typing three-fourth of Raghav R. Menon’s article before I realised it is available online.

PS. This post has very little of my own thing. But, I still felt like sharing because these are the kind of things that have shaped my personality. Here is a similar post written more than a year ago.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Ab Ke Hum Bichhade

A famous Ghazal sung by Mehdi Hassan resonating with life.

ab ke hum bichhade to shaayad kabhii khwabon mein milen
jis tarah suukhe hue phool kitaabon mein milen

(bichhade:part; shaayad:perhaps; khwab:dreams;
suukhe phool:dried flowers)

dhuundh ujade hue logon mein vafaa ke motii
ye khazaane tujhe mumkin hai kharaabon mein milen

(ujade hue:lost in desolate fogs; vafaa ke moti:pearls of loyalty;
khazaane:treasures; kharaabon:dark misfortune)

tuu khudaa hai na meraa ishq farishton jaisaa
dono insaan hain to kyon itne hijaabon mein milen

(khudaa:God; farishtey:angels; insaan:mortals; hijaab:veils)

gam-e-duniyaa bhii gam-e-yaar mein shaamil kar lo
nashaa badataa hai sharabein jo sharaabon mein milen

(gam-e-duniyaa: tragedies of life; gam-e-yaar: pathos of love,friendship;
nashaa: intoxication; sharaabein: liquor)

aaj ham daar pe kheenche gaye jin baaton par
kyaa ajab kal vo zamaane ko nisaabon mein milen

(kheenche gaye:tore us apart; nisaab:fate)

ab na vo main huun na tu hai na vo maazii hai `Faraaz',
jaise do shakhs tamannaa ke saraabon mein milen

(maazi:past; tamanna ke saraabon: mirage of desire)

Translation is taken from here

Poet is Ahmed Faraz

P. S. The video is a few stanza short.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Craving not for eternal peace

Or even for unconditional love

Just a voice

That gives the joy

Of having lived

A hundred happy lives

Sparkling as a rivulet

Flowing through the verdant hillocks

Giving fullness to a deprived existence


Yet another scribbled gibberish. Heeheeee.

Monday, January 05, 2009


The Success & Ability magazine had requested me to write something similar to this and it has appeared in their Oct-Dec 2008 issue in a slightly edited form.

There are advantages of having a vacant face with uneven eyes; one large and another too small. The large one squinting sideways with thick glasses (supporting myopia) magnifying the effect, overgrown stubble with an antiquity of few months. And, the head jutting forward like a turtle’s. All these giving an impression that the top most compartment in the body of the person possessing these features must be empty.

The most obvious advantage may be that you don’t have to remember every casual acquaintance whom you may be meeting only once in three months, six months or even a year. The first question they ask is; “Do you remember me?” and readily pour their bio-data on you without even bothering to wait for your response. So, it is utter waste of precious GBs (gigabytes) of your brain trying to store data of such people because they are always ready to introduce themselves afresh.

There are numerous other benefits of having the looks of a retard; one being that there is zero expectation from you. So, when you seek the blessings of your tuition teacher (who just spent an hour a day with you during the two years) after securing higher second class in Pre-Degree Course (12th in current jargon), what you hear is: “I never thought you were a serious student. I was under the impression that your parents called me after being fed up with your tantrums to join college like your siblings. Anyways, this (holding up the mark-list) is of no use for you as you won’t even get students to take tuitions because of your speech problem and you can’t even think of getting a regular job. The only thing I can see you doing is teaching poor kids free of cost”.

He even had a take on my hobby to despatch Letters to the Editor. He always used to ask me what purpose it served other than wasting time by going through the newspapers and magazines, taking the trouble of writing them down, harassing someone to type it out (in the pre-computer days) for me and spending two rupees for the postage. It was no use telling him about the thrill of seeing one’s name in print or even about my journalistic aspirations.

Flash forward some fourteen years: The aforementioned teacher’s protégé (yours truly) has graduated in Commerce by appearing for exams as a private student (means, you can study sitting at home and appear for exams). He has a clerical job in a MNC. And, above all he has become a small-time film journalist contributing to newspapers and web portals.

Still, when someone sees me sitting in front of my laptop; he tells my parents, “Achha Hain Aapne ise yeh leke diya hai, Khel Toh Sakta Hai. TV Dekhke bhi Bore Hojata Hoga” (Good you have given him this, at least he can play. Watching TV for long is too boring). My parents say; “He works on this”. And, the reply will be; “But still…”.

They say; it is difficult to change attitudes. Very true!


I’ve to thank a very dear friend, who was proofreading this line after line as I was typing it and gave some valuable suggestions to make it look polished the way it is now. Still, the flaws that remain here are because of stubbornness not to change them.

What makes me extra happy is the fact that four of my poems, which I never thought were publish-able anywhere other than this blog have appeared in the same issue. Please have a look:

Twilight Hour, A Stroll, Mirage and Words