Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The koward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!"
                     oscar wilde , the ballad of reading gaol

When was the last that I thought of you...I know not...but am I the one who goes alone on this path...and should I but care only a little for the souls that follow or those as march ahead?

Mode C is a way of life, perhaps my way of life: C for Cool, C for Cold, C for Chaos, C for Calvin. Ultimately, all of it boils down to the way you look at things. Are they not how they are but just how they appear?? No...and yes...Almost all the seriously critical fundamental concepts of life...aren't they just the bogies under Calvin's bed that he is afraid of? Miss Wormwood, Susie, Mom and Dad, and of course above all, Hobbes...aren't they all merely the means that he uses to attack these bogies?

Reflecting on 'living the Calvin way', I have started to believe that life and our reaction to it can only be explained by a number of Calvin and Hobbes strips combined together. The philosophy, as I like to call it, is to know that you are not alone. It is not just my perspective alone that is going to help me fight my bogies. I will be able to inch towards the Calvin way only when I perceive the other perspectives on my way.

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Loyola High School Patna
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Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna
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Veer Zaara
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Kyun! Ho Gaya Na
Mujhse Shaadi Karogi
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Main Hoon Na

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Stay Hungry Stay Foolish
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Harry Potter - Half-Blood Prince
The Monk who sold his Ferrari
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Thursday, March 12, 2009
The Colors of Holi

When it is time for Holi, I have never been one of those early starters, delaying the inevitable every time. This happens partly on account of the inertia that is behind my procrastinating self, and partly due to the looming fear of having to work hard for getting the color off my skin. Even when I was a little kid, whereas normal little kids revelled in the concept of dirtying themselves and others and getting lost in the world of colors, I had no such, at least not as clearly established, inclinations.

Now that many springs have passed since I used to be a little kid, the scenario is, if anything, even more so directed against the getting-wild-on-Holi tendencies. Not that I have anything against the festival or people who celebrate it fact, I love all the revelry, the fun, and songs and dances that make Holi as special a festival as it is. But all the same, I can not get myself to shout with the same gusto, to forcibly bring out the shy ones from wherever they are hidden out to the maddeningly vibrant colors, to end up in a state where not even my closest and dearest would recognize me if not for a bucketful of water splashed on my face.

It is not that there have not been instances over the years when I have been one of the most vociferous on the battle field of color, actively involved and deeply ingrained. I can distinctly remember times when I was in different hostels (higher secondary, graduation, and even at post graduation levels) and as much a part of the fun as everyone else. But as I said in the beginning, I was never amongst early starters in this aspect, always the one who would follow the lead and that too after reasonable amount of either cajoling or coercion, depending upon the degree of inertia I would be under at the time.

This Holi was not too different. As India and Indians all over the world looked away from the daily routine and worries and trepidations and put on the mask of color, I was mostly unmoved and unimpressed. With Bharti Didi (my first cousin who stays in Vashi) having invited us for Holi, I was thankful that at least I will be amongst people on the festival and not closeted within the walls of my home with nobody but Priya for company.

I had thought that there will be quite a lot of action at Bharti Didi's place, what with Jijaji being of an effervescent nature himself, and his brother and sister-in-law also being there to enliven the atmosphere. I was surprised, however, to discover that the inertia I have is shared. In retrospect, I think that this may have been more because of the age group that the party belonged to. Although not really coming from entirely different generations, Priya and I were relatively the younger lot and the others had seen more of life and Holi festivities than either of us. And then there was the media, generally sermonizing on how festivals have been increasingly losing their sheen and zeal over the last few years, more so in the recent recessionary times.

So it was that apart from the traditional tilak, this Holi was rather colorless and limited in its impact. Till the next time, hope that the symbolism that color represents is not limited at all and all of you have an extremely colorful and joyous year ahead.

Posted at 03:47 pm by Nitai

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Monday, March 09, 2009
(Un)Real Estate

The fact that the economy of the world, as of India has slowed down is something that has been hitting our ears with varying intensities over the last year. At times, it has been a whisper, while at others someone shouting down our throats, but the effective truth has taken hold on all of us, and the economy, we are in consensus, is doomed for quite some time to come.

It is in times like these when unemployment is at the highest and spending power at its lowest, that things start crumbling. And when I say things, it should logically include every facet, be it the much-in-news financial services, or the still not obvious retail. The reality however is different. There is no restaurant in town which is not filled to its capacity on weekends, no superstore worth its salt which does not see huge footfalls even on weekdays after office hours.

Whether all these footfalls and all these people at eateries contribute to the actual growth of the economy is a big question. The answer, to me, is pretty obvious...a big NO. Had it been really effective, we wouldn't have put the lids on the consumption story of India, or would we? This answer to this is not so obvious because the economy's dependence on consumption, especially the visible economy's (stock market, real estate prices, inflation) dependence on consumption is not as straight forward as it seems.

The impact of factors not really related to the domestic market and its consumption is far more than what we would like to give credence to. Consumption in the advanced economies, we all know, is not even a spot on its previous self and more than that, there are far bigger problems than a slow down in consumption that are plaguing these economies. The world, to add to it all, has shrunk in such a big way that all these problems of the global greats are taking their toll on the so called pygmies who were just beginning to show their real size but have been thwarted in their tracks.

All this has been going through my mind as I have, taking a contrarian call, been looking for a 2 bedroom place to buy in this teeming metropolis. With the kind of rent I pay every month, and the softer interest rates in force, I thought that it will make supreme sense to capitalize on the cash-strapped distress of the Mumbai builders and developers. Hoping to make a killing out of the real estate scenario which everyone has been talking about with a frown on their faces, I started looking out.

Beginning with passive enquiries with friends who have already taken flats (even while the going was good and prices were high) and slowly transforming into active chats with brokers, I have been busy for the last few weekends. Ravi and Deepti have helped immensely, Rohit and Kanav have been making the right noises about going for bulk deals and Himadri has pitched in with his relatively well-off contacts with experiences of their own.

For people familiar with this mad city that Mumbai is, I have, since January this year, explored the central sub-urban areas of Chembur and Wadala, as well as the Western suburbs of Andheri, Jogeshwari, and Goregaon. And this was when I realized the folly of it all. The bloody pirates are still holding on and it is not just illogical, it is silly, even comical…nay hilarious.

I have realized that the best of deals that I have looked at put the floor of my investments at a staggering 70 lacs (for a moment, forget the black component for the sake of convenience) for a 2 bedroom-hall-kitchen house with a carpet area close to 700-750 sq ft. Lest you have forgotten, I am talking about the central and western suburbs, not even Bandra, right before which Mumbai town ends. A distress deal puts the value of 1100 sq ft of space at Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road (not a very prominent location) at an all inclusive tag of 88 lacs. Can you imagine the effrontery of it all?

I can't.

Posted at 04:03 pm by Nitai

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Friday, March 06, 2009
Nayan Tarse

Tauba tera jalwa tauba tera pyaar
Tera emosional atyachaar

The movie is anything but emosional atyachaar and thanks to a certain Mr. Kashyap for this. This is one movie that more than lives up to the expectations that surrounded its release. Not boasting of a stellar cast, the movie seems to be running purely on the eclectic reputation of its lead actor and more than that, its director. Abhay Deol and probably more so, Anurag Kashyap (especially after his recent work in No Smoking) have increasingly set themselves up for scrutiny whenever they try to do something that is even close to different. They have done so many things that are supposedly different and that too, in such a short span of time that any more different from their stables does raise the curious and often cynical eyebrows.

This one, however beats all cynics hollow in an almost surreal psychedelic fashion, a fashion, which to the average viewer, would come out as the underlying theme of the entire movie. Starting quite in similar vein to other recent small budget Abhay Deol starrers, DevD traces the stories of Dev, a spoilt brat who goes to London to study and his childhood sweetheart, Paro who doesn't think twice before sending her nude pics over the internet to her lover and carry a mattress to the fields on her bicycle in the hope of getting an opportunity to make out. As if this was not explosive enough for a start, soon enough, we are transposed from the single room sets and the fields of Punjab to the techno music playing bars of Delhi.

This transformation is not without incidents, though...incidents which are central to the story and the setting of context. A casual fling at a marriage ceremony (the definition of casual gets a new meaning here) and some banter about Paro result in the arrogantly rebellious scoundrel humiliating and disowning his equally strong-headed, reveling-in-sexuality girlfriend insatiate, almost as in an incomplete sexual release.

That is how it comes across, the first half of the movie, resplendent in the colors of the human body and the desires that it has over and above anything else. There are no feelings and no emotions as things move from one frame to another with an incoherently insensitive Dev trying to recover from the emosional atyachaar of his pyaar who decides to get hitched to an older man, if only to teach her jilted lover a lesson.

This recovery is guided by the ever-smiling, cunning Chunni, the pimp operating in the environs of Paharganj, that eternal cove of Delhi which hides beneath itself much more than probably the entire city of Delhi can dare to reveal. And this is where we meet Chanda, the girl prostitute, the linguist who can provide phone sex facilities in so many languages, the girl-woman who could never make it as the regular girl-next-door because she was filmed doing the unthinkable for a school going girl.

This, of course, refers to the DPS (my alma mater, coincidentally) MMS scandal. Here, I must admire the way Kashyap brings out the fact that everyone who ever found it fit to condemn the protagonist in the little MMS movie did so only after having a good time exploiting the victim, first by enjoying the episode to his heart's content and then, of course, by writing and talking reams on how the moral fabric of the victim and the society at large has gone to the dogs.

So Chanda, it is, who goes ahead and gives some sort of support to Dev, even if it means Dev vacillating between pining for a forbidden fruit in the form of an unclaimed and now non claimable love and coming to terms with the fact that the only one who loves him probably does not have the right to do so for she, her body and her love, are all on sale in the marketplace.

Sounds familiar, does it? Close to what Sarat Babu wrote in the classic Devdas, is it? Well, the answer is both yes and no for the director and all three lead actors (four, if you also count the effervescent Chunni) hold fast to a modern adaptation of the classic but at the same time make it abundantly clear that it is but an adaptation.

There is no way the classic would have ever thought of the three characters who come out at the most random moments in the movie to break into a jig or just watch silently, leaning against the wall. There is no way the classic would have such an amazing soundtrack and make the most optimum use of sound, lights, and camera to reflect the inner conundrum that Dev goes through while getting split between the two loves of his life...destruction of self and humiliation of others.

All the same, Anurag Kashyap does not fail to dig deep into the psyche of his characters and bring out what they stand for in the story that the classic novel tells. The nonchalant rebel in Dev, the vibrant pride in Paro, and the calm devotion in Chanda are all there, perhaps brought out in Technicolor through brilliant audio-visual treatment. The cine-goer comes out with endless things (good or bad depends on the diet of movies that he has been brought up amongst) to say about the technicians of this movie, whether it is the director Anurag Kashyap, or the cinematographer Rajeev Ravi, or the brilliant people associated with the songs and music of the movie (Music Director Amit Trivedi and the playback singers, specially Bony Chakravarthy and Shruthi Pathak).

Amongst the actors, it is not very surprising to see the underplaying of Abhay Deol fail for once. He could have grabbed a little more of the camera and been the better for it. However, he continues in the tradition of an Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye or a Manorama, Six Feet Under and plays the exact contrast to the most recent portrayal of the character of Devdas by Shahrukh Khan. While Shahrukh was completely over the top, Abhay is too subdued to make any meaningful impact.

The half-Indian half-French Kalki Koechlin is not an actor and that is very clear. However, Anurag Kashyap has worked wonders with what he has been able to get out of his real life girlfriend for this particular movie. It is difficult to put your finger on whether it is the disinterest of a prostitute that is essential to the character or it is the lack of capacity to act and portray emotions that leads to the empty face of Koechlin. Whatever it is, it works!

The one actor who comes out very strongly in the entire movie, of course, is Mahi Gill. Playing the super-confident woman of the world of today, Mahi is superbly brash but yet dignified, strangely even in her humiliation and more appropriately in her revenge. She comes out as someone who would be likely to be the sort of woman that the character of Anurag Kashyap's Paro is...and that is saying a lot because even if this character is real, it is certainly more real than what any of the movie audiences are going to be willing to accept.

The broad pulse of this movie is rocking, to use the euphemism that the supposed target audience of this movie would typically employ. The endless scenes of intoxication preceded by the ones that cause the said intoxication have been shot with perfection. The camera angles, the colors, the background score and the actors' emotions or the lack of them need to be seen to be believed.

Most important of all, the transition of the much filmed character of Devdas is there for all to see and admire. From a man who loved too much of KL Saigal and Dilip Kumar to the self-flagellating, self-indulgent man of Sharukh Khan, Devdas is now the sulky, unsure, and insecure individual who goes on a journey of self-realization, a journey that is replete with his own obsessions and addictions.

Posted at 04:42 pm by Nitai

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009
What's on your mind?

It has been a long time since I last wrote and this happened despite my resolution (not a new year one but generally) of being more regular. Anyway, that is what always tends to happen if you really set your mind to something contrary. Come to think of it, that can not be right especially if you think about what Basu, a budding hypnotist has to say. Basu is a classmate from BHU and a good friend who I recently met at the wedding of Ankur, another classmate and good friend from BHU (and also my room mate for the only year at BHU when we had to share rooms).

Now, this wedding was in a place called Chatarpur, which inspite of what people may think, is not in Delhi (that is Chatarpur hills, by the way), but in Madhya Pradesh. The place is a district, a decent town by any standards and yet surprisingly does not even have a railway station. This is explained by the fact that the town apparently does not fall in the middle of any major route, somewhat like a dead end maybe. Anyway, I am digressing. Coming back to the point, a trip to Chatarpur in the middle of the week (the wedding was on Thursday) seemed entirely unlikely till Basu and Animesh (yeah, I know you have guessed it already...another classmate and good friend from BHU) started making plans to go there.

Go there we did, but Animesh could not make it and it fell to Basu and me to enliven the proceedings at Ankur's baraat, which was running the risk of being a non-starter but for his brother and the two of us, of course. We danced the night away and warmed the cockles of our hearts enough by feasting on some good food and good faces. Having done that, it was time to go to Khajuraho the next day to give more definition to the Madhya Pradesh trip, unique and unlikely to be repeated soon that it was.

Khajuraho was exciting (not just erotic, read again) and not only because the ruins were the way they were but more because standing in the midst of it all, you could not help imagining yourself in the era bygone when the same area that seemed deserted except for the typical tourists, was the center of civilization as people knew it. The temples, their roofs, entry pathways and the entire aura of the place simply transported you in the middle of all the action, the priests chanting mantras, the flower sellers offering you flowers to devote at Gods' feet, the artisans presenting their craft at the temples' was all so fantastic.

Khajuraho done, we moved on to Delhi where Basu was hospitality personified as I stayed with him for a couple of days and we sat around discussing stuff, watching movies, and generally having a good time. It was in the middle of this good time that we decided to take on an earlier discussion that we had somewhere in Madhya Pradesh on the efficacy of hypnotism as a form of therapy. Having tried a trained hypnotherapist and discovered that she was busy and not aavailable before I left Delhi, Basu decided to take matters in his hand.

It was, he said and I tend to agree, the suggestability of ideas that hypnotism is all about. An idea, once implanted in the subconscious tends to bring the person around to accepting the idea in its entirety. So, coming back to what I started with, if you really set your mind to something (especially the subconscious part of your mind), there is no way that will not happen. So a situation where what happens is contrary to what you have thought will happen, there is something really screwed up about you and your mind :-)

By the way, the experiment of hypnotism that Basu did with me was pretty successful.

Posted at 03:36 pm by Nitai

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Thursday, December 18, 2008
Dilli meri jaan

The capital of India is never prettier but in the months of November-February, the time when winter reigns, the time when fog and mist cover the sun, the time when chilly winds tend to bite your skin off, the time when small bonfires have people gathered around them making small conversation, the time when pyaaz ki pakaudi aur chai takes a new meaning. Add to it the world class and unusually empty roads if you are out in the freezing night, and you have got an unbeatable combo.

Ever since I did my schooling from Delhi, the city has been close to my heart even though I managed to come back to it only 8 years later for my first post-MBA job. Some good friends made over the time I was there add to the charm that the city possesses for me. Every time I get to visit Delhi (in the not too long duration of eight months that I have been away from the city), it is yet another episode, yet another addendum to the love affair.

The visit this time was to participate in the wedding celebrations of Kushagra, one of those ex-colleagues whose friendship was and is a cherished one. Married on the 11th in Jamshedpur, Kushagra and Anugya had kept a reception for friends and family on the 14th in Delhi. Although Kushagra had informed us of the event about a month ago, there was no clear or recent information on when and where was the event supposed to take place. Obviously not expecting an invitation card, it was still a little awkward to land up at some place on a whim only to realize that the event had actually been planned for some very close family and we were, after all, uninvited.

As we (Nishith, Himadri and myself) had almost decided to give the reception a miss and I had cursed my luck enough, though clearly half heartedly for landing in Delhi without any purpose, we suddenly got SMS messages from Kushagra which was, true to his character, barely 4 hours in advance. The tone of the message was awesome to boot suggesting as though there may have been some ambiguity on our front as far as our attendance at the event was concerned.

To cut a long story short, we did attend the reception and it was absolutely spot on, with the newly weds looking terrific in their synchronized ensembles. Anugya was looking particularly graceful and Kushagra was the image of a good boy, what with uncharacteristically well kept hair, to quote an instance.

I was accompanied to the Delhi trip this time by Priya as apart from the reception, there were some other family engagements in the city as well, which also went off pretty nicely although not without a good dose of situational humor associated with the same. The only regret I had was that the two day trip seemed too small to meet all friends, go to all places I wanted to visit and most importantly, have all the street food that I wanted to have.

As I took the metro to reach New Delhi station to catch the train back (yeah, I took the train both ways, air travel is way too expensive nowadays), I could but only marvel at the growth that this city has had over the last few years. Looking at the reservation charts to check where they had allotted my RAC seat, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself upgraded to the 2nd tier. Happy ending, what!

Posted at 01:28 pm by Nitai

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