Wednesday, August 31, 2005
GOA..N WITH THE WIND
The inclement climes of work make one land up in faraway, unseen lands, having taken some big steps and some little ‘uns. While most places look like something the cat dragged in in a fit of petulant spite, some rare ones accord the weary traveller bliss, bounty and beatitude. But these also make the w.t. wonder why that w.t. is working in the first place !
Goa featured rather high on many indices that ostensibly gauge Human progress—a low population of thirteen lakhs forty three thousand ( 68% Hindus, 27% Catholics, 5% Muslims )ensures plenitude and pomp—a per capita income of over Rs. 26,000 per annum next only to Chandigarh, Panaji has the highest telephone ownership rate and highest exposure to television in the country, a staggeringly high urban income per household, smooth roads and greenery to add to the pristine white sands, and you know you have something very special.
The major money-spinners are Mining, Tourism and Fisheries in that order. The major foods are Fish, more Fish, Meat & Bread in that order. The major beverages are Pheni, Rum, Whisky, Water and Tea in that order.
Didn’t get the time to sift through my regular research on the state visited, and so persisted with the erroneous notion that Margao was North Goa till my colleague ( Ed—And some seven strident co-passengers !) put me right. I can now safely aver that the state can broadly be divided into North Goa ( Panaji/Panjim ) which is the state capital and South Goa . There are five such Municipal demarcations—none of which have a population over a lakh—Margao, Panaji, Vasco, Doan Paula and Ponda.
The ride to Panaji was a delight designed to make one acutely aware of the therapeutic benefits of Ma Nature, running parallel to most of the coast line on one side and verdant abundance on the other.Bracing crisp air made me vacillate between a somnolent gaze and a wide-awake appreciation of the scenery around me. Passed Dabholim & Bicholim en route and could have done with more time for exploration and less for work.
I am sure that most schools of evolutionary thought, Intelligent Design notwithstanding, would have some space in their epistemology reserved for vividly capturing the raison d’ etre of a people, land or community. Hence, by inferential logic, there must be some force, some lode star, some superordinate objective that propels the inhabitants, galvanizes motion and spurs on past the point of pain or inertia, whichever comes first.
For example, for Delhi, it would be power, prestige and visibility; for Madras it would be education or the States, for Bombay, it would be catching the 7 50 fast between Borivli and Churchgate , and so on.
I am sorry to conclude that Goa is blissfully ignorant and gapingly devoid of such a purpose. There is a hypnotic cadence in its languor, magnetic rhythm in its stupor and a stolid confidence in its immobility.
Every single human, canine, feathered friend, furry friend, leaf, microorganism, lamppost must have their siestas between 1 and 4 p.m, so for all practical purposes, Life with its multifarious dendrites,( Ed-You mean 42 !), stops. Not a gently lolling loss of momentum, but a trenchant, firm, cessation of all motion. As Tilak said here ” Siesta is my Birth Right, and I shall have it “ . Nobody, nothing can alter this. Lilting finality and all that !
In fact, some claim have to seen a restaurant at 2 pm “closed for lunch”. Indeed !
Lovely pure sands on the Miramar beach. Kept wondering where all the folks were in Panaji, turns out that was the entire population. One of the tidies bus stands I’ve seen in years and the fact that the capital is only three kms. wide helps.
Found time to walk along the Mandovi river, but lest the reader think that this was a pleasure cruise, also visited the bustling Margao market, the emptiness of Consaulim and its orchards, Verna, Vasco, Agarcim, Porvolim and Mapusa. Actually walked past a six-lane built by the Portuguese, designed for fresh produce and transactions, not aesthetics. After work hours, sat under the Church Ora Pro Nobis ( whatever that means), gazed at the stars and an apologetic moon and tried to forcibly imbibe peace and calm. Didn’t work.
A memorable visit to the chocolate factory at Ponda—reminded of Willy Wonka, and all of us were enthralled as we gazed,mesmerized, by the intricacies in chocolate production. Honest attempts to pay attention to the Tour Host’s explanations were sadly in vain, all of us were waiting for him to dispense with the prolix verbosity and ask those magic words “ So if you’ve understood all, can we go into the Tasting Room? “. Needless to say, all had understood the entire recital in fullest imaginable detail, as we shook our heads to underscore the depth of our grasp. After half an hour of chomping on wafers unabashedly, non-stop, our comprehension was even better.
Many a time, across the country, in classrooms, queues, homes and fields, I’ve been asked to pipe down “Stop shouting as if you are in a fish market”. Cowed down by ignorance, burdened and unsighted with the fog of nescience, not knowing what they meant, I have kept my silence. After all, I’d never been in one myself. Now, at long last, I know. I have felt what it is to be in a fish market so I’ll have a suitable riposte ready for the next chap who says this. I’ll be candid however, the fish market was markedly quieter than I usually am !
Two cine memories kept coming back over and over. Understandably, one was Benegal’s Trikaal which of course is set in Goa, has a fine cast and is still considered a master class in set design. The other, less understandably, was Vijay Singh’s Jaya Ganga, especially a shot that ethereally pans away from Smriti Mishra’s boat to the azure skies above.
Goa is a speedy biker’s haven. No traffic signals and although roads are wide and clear, the propensity to speed has cost folks dear. People are largely parochial inspite of the relative levels of affluence and the local newspapers NavHind Times, Gomantak Times wax eloquent about the state’s affairs. Sports-loving people –an entire page devoted to local sports I also encountered a city business tycoon, Chowgule, for whose anniversary celebrations, there was a haranguing diatribe against the decision to go separately from Maharashtra. Curious !
Still, most consider themselves and their lifestyles as Uber-Indian, money flows from the Gulf and the Cruise Liners where the overseas citizens are employed and I dare say Goa Liberation Day ( December 19-1961) is bigger than August 15.
And yes, I am now in the anguish-laden throes of reason trying to comprehend why one needs to work, if one has what Goa can offer. How much land does a man need ?
What is this life if, full of care,We have no time to stand and stare?—
Monday, August 22, 2005
Caught a couple of films over the weekend, both coincidentally on the same topic—HIV positive men and their increasing alienation leading to ostracization within their families and then from society as a whole, before desolate and benumbed with anguish, they succumb.
Phir Milenge & My Brother Nikhil are honest attempts, painfully so, as tantalizing opportunities to aggrandize and vituperate are unashamedly passed on, treading instead on a thin story line and wavering characterization.
The urge to pontificate was perceptible in the former, and perhaps even on the brink of adopting a carefree Look Ma No Hands buccaneering approach. Wisely the director played down the Small B’s pirouetting and returned to the original story line—that of a successful corporate woman struck down in the prime of her career by the dreaded virus.
This in itself is a departure from sketchy delineations of the Modern Indian Lady that most past directors have faithfully adhered to. Decent support from established actors, Salman is not one of them, and some interesting legal aspects thrown in for good measure. Some parts were straight out of a public service documentary as the director’s intent shone through obscuring the narrative, but overall good work by Sahara One and the players.
Surprisingly, I was not taken with Shilpa Shetty’s performance despite the relative novelty of the role for a glam-gal whose spoken lines have been simpering nonsense so far. The Shankar Ehsaan Loy combo was audibly subdued and the fledgling musical tunes of Bhavata Raja made their its presence felt too. ( Is he the scion of Illayaraja ? )
My Brother Nikhil by Onir was a different kind of film, a nostalgic looking back in time by a sister of a sibling lost to the malaise. This debut essay went further, because it brought in a homosexual liaison angle as well. Shot in Goa, it had conversation-less vistas, vast expanses of emptiness & poignant silences. I thought this was the more poetic of the two attempts, shorn of cacophony and histrionics and almost a Western feel to it. Viveck Philip with the music and Amitabh Varma with lyrics had a good, if uneventful day in the office. The cast was okay, Sanjay Suri & Shiney Ahuja competent, and even a cameo from Shayan Munshi made me think of Junk(aar) Beats because Juhi was omnipresent in an understated performance.
I liked ‘em both, warts and all !
QUIETLY FADES THE DON
Yet another era in the glorious annals of Indian cinema melted away, another Great in the Pantheon of Reel Heroes segued into the sunset today. Matinee idol, heart-throb of the swooning masses, shimmering star of the tinsel galaxy, and performer above par excellence, Faizal Khan decided to quit fims today. The news, quickly relayed to all the news agencies & television channels of Mumbai, understandably caused a hullabaloo in the entire country.
Faizal ,who cited pursuit of more meaningful purposes in life as the main reason for his jettisoning a splendiferous Bollywood career, spoke of setting up an acting school as his ideas for the next decade. His record of four successive National awards may never be perhaps be bettered.
Chandrachur Singh now reigns supreme at the Box Office.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR
There has been a sudden upsurge in the advertisements for WorldSpace Satellite Radio of late and I must pitch in with my two bits for the benefit of humanity and our feathered friends. My demystification follows the tech-spiel.
"""""""WorldSpace uses its two satellites, AfriStar™ and AsiaStar™, to broadcast more than 100 digital-quality audio channels to people around the world who want world-class programming that is not available or rarely found on local regional or national terrestrial radio.
Each satellite has three beams and each beam is able to send up to 80 channels directly to portable satellite radios. Inside each WorldSpace digital satellite radio is a proprietary chipset designed to lock onto the WorldSpace satellite signal in your region of the world.No other option provides the variety of programming that WorldSpace offers. Also, each WorldSpace satellite radio is equipped with a data port that transforms it into a wireless modem able to download data to personal computers at rates of up to 128kbps. Thus, the WorldSpace satellite radio can also broadcast multimedia content.
The WorldSpace digital satellite signal means no fading, noise or interference. The system delivers high quality digital sound in a coverage area of 14 million square kilometers. As long as you're in line of sight with the satellite, you'll never lose the WorldSpace signal."""""
So far, so good!
The contraption necessitates an antenna that faces outwards—juts outside the window, preferably in a South Easterly direction. I have not come across too many instances where it has worked off the pocket receiver set and hence most sets are accompanied by wires that stare meaningfully into space.
As of now, India receives 39 channels –many overseas channels are “pay” as of now—Bloomberg, ABC, Fox Sports are yet unavailable. The variety is non pareil –Rock, R & B, Pop, Country, Trance, Jazz, Hip hop, Classical form the Western repertoire and Regional channels , Hindi film, News & analysis, Carnatic & Hindustani bolster the Indian offering. Content is uploaded from specialized stations and there are little or no advertising throughout the 24*7 broadcasts. Each receiver set has an encryption password and is hence non-transferable. The entire gadgetry and Annual Subscription License will set one back by over six grand, with better and sleeker sets this could go up too.
Expectedly not many takers in India so far, only about 60,000 and climbing. The lack of portability is a huge negative, which is not likely to rectify itself because of the technology. Most certainly not for a dilettante, but for a person who’d prefer the radio to the idiot box, a Godsend.
A word of caution- we can never guess what the Mandi House menagerie is up to, so this entire musical universe could be banned overnight on technical grounds. Never mind, we'd still have a Yagi antenna, and freed window space
So if anyone has a query or would like to hear this, you know what to do. Just make sure you don’t disturb the pigeons ensconced on the antenna !
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
SEASONS IN THE SUN
Twas a happy hour that saw Suresh Raina’s doddering grandfather, tending his farm in Modinagar in the outskirts of Ghaziabad, learn that the apple of his eye had got the coveted selector’s nod to don India colours. Mohan Raina’s favourite grandson had at last fulfilled a promise that the lad’s own parents had never shared, less articulated.
Sanu, his dear boy, now an international star….Mohan’s eyes clouded over…
And in another corner of Delhi, the brat in question was endeavouring to drown himself in spirits of his own choosing.
Stardom at last !
After restive nights, sweaty pillows, grimy gloves, D-Day dawned bright and clear in Damn-bulla. Kaif fell in the 19th over and our man walked in at four drop to join Dravid—India’s top order delivering as always. Dravid was nonplussed to find Raina walking in ahead of Venu Rao as he had decreed. Aah, that Sehwag guy was so used to doing things by himself in the dressing room—must watch my own place before that upstart unseated him too ! Quietly and quickly Dravid chanted the 14, 216 tenets of batsmanship that had made him The Wall—Raina, a willing if nervous listener.
Dravid needlessly took a single off the second ball of The Smiling Assassin’s over. As TSA grinned in greed, Raina broke into a cold sweat. Don’t worry, don’t worry –sab theek ho jayega- Dravid’s scamper down the wicket to cool him down only got on his already frazzled nerves. Still, there are things that one must do alone.
How he missed his mother !
Scratch, scratch,scrape, hit away, his bat tried to smoothen the pitch !He’d never known the wicket would be so grainy. One leg, said the umpire. Better than to bat outside leg.
Mallas gaana entere, hollered the ‘keeper, in Sinhala behind him—Let’s get him !
Murali began his run-up—that sinuous angular gambol to the wicket that he had watched a million times on the telly. His hair stood on end.
Murali reached the wicket—over the wicket. Thank God for small mercies—the ball had only to pitch somewhere near leg stump and he had the entire off side to tap for a single. And he would be off the mark. Hurray !
Ball pitched. Short. Raina, years of assiduous practice, was into position in a trice. Surely a brace off this ball and he would cock a snook at those roosters above him in the pecking order. Began to slant the bat away to give himself room. Behind him he felt Sangakkara moving to his right too—a sure sign of turn. If the ball spun, it would finish up a foot outside his off stmp—an easy cut and no danger of hitting the ball in the air, although Jayasuriya at point and Jayawardene in the covers waited like vultures.
A couple of milliseconds later. Surprise, surprise , what was this ? The ball kept coming. Maybe the old fox was losing it. They said, the hand is the first to go, isn’t it ? And Heaven knew that those gaunt fingers had coaxed many kilometers of spin before him. He could surely get this behind point and be done with it. He waited…
Another couple of milliseconds. Surely something’s afoot. The ball had not turned at all. Whatever’s the matter with Murali ? Maybe all those experiments in Australia. Never mind, I think I must reconcile to blocking this now. Three more left in the over , any road. He started to get back into his batting stance.
Strangely, the ball picked up speed. Hadn’t expected that, now. OK, I will be forced to block my first ball in ODI’s. Fine, might yet eke a four of him after this. Let me just defend.
Not to be. The ball went on, unstinting in its devotion, unswerving in its direction. Raina, now definitely cramped for room, gave up all semblance of elegant left-handedness and desperately tried to keep the cherry out. Too slow, Howzzat, and the umpire’s finger was up before the Lankans had even found their voice. And perhaps, a twinkle in his eye too.
He had failed. He knew that. His team, his childhood friends, his neighbours, his coaches, more importantly, his grandfather , his mother—Oh, if only the ground could swallow him up ! His cheeks burned crimson, he blinked back a hot tear as he walked away.
Woh Doosra tha, called Dravid as he walked past his skipper.
Raina remembered thinking what a twit of a captain we had who couldn’t even count. Why, even he in his anxiety knew that was the third ball of the over .
Doosra, indeed !
Monday, August 01, 2005
Frailty, Thy Name is Woman
(But Fealty, Thy Name May Not Be Man Either !)
Over the past fortnight, two sporting incidents, nay, revelations have had me gasping for air. Both involve sportsmen of the highest echelons and their future absence may prove apocalyptical for their respective teams. Vastly differing reasons but their import will cast heavy clouds of despondence among those left behind.
Graham Thorpe, it must be said, was no Uncle Fred in the Springtime. Doughty, accumulative, combative were the phrases one used when alluding to him and any pretense to elegance and panache was incidental. He was an obdurate wall of resilience at two-drop and especially in the Ashes was one of the few Pommies who could look McGrath, Warne and company in the eye and soldier on. He averaged consistently over 40 in the Ashes and though I think he missed the last Ashes, his contribution in lost causes, especially against Australia was typical of the man-plucky, pugnacious , unheralded and utilitarian. Not the first cricketer to be besieged by marital strife, he had kept away for increasingly long periods and the selectors gave him the prompt heave-ho on learning his intention on not to tour again.
( I have no axe to grind against the selectors, who have in their wisdom, picked instead a giant lumberjack, who among other virtues, is a non-native, has the stance of an unenthusiastic elephant who has been ordered at gunpoint not to leave till he successfully hatched the microscopic egg of a humming bird,and a cassata striation where most humans have monochromic hair )
What can and will Arsenal do without Patrick Vieira ?
Never have the words “talismanic captain” been used more feelingly, never has an individual epitomized his side’s angst and fortitude better, and not since the days of Cantona has an English audience responded more warmly to a foreigner. Arsene Wenger’s first signing, a long time ago on 1996, Vieira has made the shift from a strapping midfielder to a unshakeable powerhouse in the middle of the park—an exemplary work rate, searing shearing upfield forays, pinpoint tackles, and legendary ball distribution have been his hallmarks. He leaves Highbury finally, more I guess out of frustration than any skirmish with the club. Not making any headway in the Champion’s League would have rankled, as would the World Cup 2002 disaster.
The Gunners have signed up Alexander Hleb and Fabrice Muamba—the latter apparently having a surreal likeness to Vieira, but with Edu and Pires already gone, the load in the midfield will shift to three teenagers—Fabregas, Flamini and Muamba. Still, Nedved and Vieira in the center of midfield for Juve may make for some viewing indeed.
An England Ashes side without Thorpe at No. 4 and an Arsenal side without Vieira ( No. 4 jersey ) leading them out is unthinkable, at least for me, but come the second week of August, we will have to reconcile to it.
Graham and Patrick, Thanks for the memories, Gentlemen !
Apt to close with the closing lines of S & G’s The Boxer:
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down,
Or cut him 'til he cried out in his anger and his shame,
"I am leaving, I am leaving."
But the fighter still remains……