Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Purani Jeans

I fit into my old pair of jeans today.

My size 26, low waist jeans.

The jeans I used to wear before I got pregnant last November.

The jeans my brother had predicted I'd be able to squeeze into by my birthday next year in January. I beat his prediction by 17 days.

The jeans which I have been waiting to wear, ever since my daughter was born 4 months and 26 days ago.

The jeans which for me is my identity, my self, my individuality, my confidence, my 'me'.

Sayema did a connect with me on Purani Jeans today on Radio Mirchi. I had no idea that the show I had conceptualised and named five and a half years ago, would become such a personal reality and delight for me one day.

I love my old jeans. My Purani Jeans.

Friday, December 05, 2008

I have not been able to get this one thought out of my head.

What if, on that fateful night in Mumbai, some of the guests at the hotel - maybe those who were in point blank range of the terrorists' rifles and had sub zero chances of survival - had decided on the spur of the moment to hurl themselves at the gunmen, instead of towards the floor? What if four or five of them, emulating th jihadis, had decided to say bugger all to personal safety and in a moment of insane passion, had decided to take the gunmen down, with them?

Nearly 200 people dead. More than 300 injured. Over 500 people against a mere 5.

Just imagine if, the next time something like this happens, a few regular, common, normal Indians just decide to become as suicidal as these fanatical men, and make up their mind to take the bullet head on, but not lying down?

What if some of those guests at the Taj had gotten disgusted enough with all these terror attacks to forget for a moment about instinctive survival? What if eight or ten or fifteen people had jumped each rifle wielding maniac?

Sure. The first few would have definitely died. But even with rifles and grenades, its impossible to stand up to over a dozen people charging at you, people disgusted enough, frustrated enough and pissed off enough to risk certain death.

Can you imagine if that happens the next time? Can you imagine what'll happen if these jehadis actually pass on their frenzied way of being to us? Where we are matched as equals with them - because just like them, we no longer care if we die. For the larger cause.

Except, in our case, the larger cause is Peace & Security.

Just imagine.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


This good looking man is GORKY. RD Burman fan, film maker and best friend. GORKY insists that a passing mention of him in my previous post is mighty inadequate and he must be given an exclusive, in bold, all caps. So here it is. A post specifically about this phenomenon in my life called GORKY. And yes, every mention, I promise, will be in all caps and in bold. Just for the pleasure of embarassing the daylights out of him. I hope many of our common friends see this post. Just so they can ensure he never lives this one down.

So then. First things first. Why does he have such an unusual name? Well, a bit like the Namesake. His dad was reading a book by Maxim Gorky when he was born. As GORKY says, thank god he wasn't reading Munshi Premchand. Ha.

GORKY came into my life when I was in college. For the first 2 years, as we got to know each other, spent hours drinking tea and sharing cigarettes at Jai Singh Lawns at Hindu College, I mistakenly believed that GORKY studied somewhere else and only came to Hindu to hang out with pals. It was only in the third year that I realised that not only was he a Hinduiite, he was apparantly in my class. I hadn't realised it over 2 years because he never attended any classes. How he managed to pass is a bit of a mystery. I suspect it had something to do with a lot of luck and some of my notes.

After college, GORKY moved to Mumbai and after months of scrounging around in that grand phenomenon called the 'mumbai struggle', he finally joined Kundan Shah (of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron Fame) by telling him an appallingly bad joke about a man in a desert with a camel. GORKY had been shadowing and stalking Shah for days before this joke-telling meeting, and when finally Shah asked him if he had a sense of humour, he discovered quickly that what GORKY had was more akin to a nonsense of humour, and hastily hired him. I've always had this suspicion that he basically wanted to get the meeting over with as quickly as possible, after that disgusting joke. A few really bad movies later - Shah was obviously half the man and less than half the director, without his charismatic and quirky writer by his side, Ranjit Kapoor - GORKY was back to struggling and to one meal a day. So he did something extremely strange. He went to Indonesia to make TV serials in Bhaasa. Ya, I know, kinda weird. Whoever thought Indonesians needed us to make their serials for them. But apparantly they did. When GORKY went there, they were still, in terms of production quality, inhabiting the DD days. Apparantly introducing things like slow motion and montage made GORKY a veritable legend in that land. Wheee.

Djakarta is also where GORKY met his future wife, Gul. They made these phenomenally slick, but story wise largely Ekta Kapoor inspired, serials together - what a blissful way to fall in love.

Today GORKY lives in Mumbai and makes TV serials. He and his wife are the producers of Chaand Ke Paar Chalo on NDTV Imagine. One day GORKY will make a film. A great film. An award winning film. And he has promised to invite me on stage when he receives his award. If he has not managed to meet my daughter by then - she's four months old and he still hasn't seen her, which is unforgivable - I too will refuse to attend the awards ceremony.

Now, why is this post about GORKY? Well, largely because he said he wanted a solo. But partially also because, like most other people, my mind too has been caught up with myriad thoughts on what FAITH actually means in today's world. Ever since the Mumbai terror strike, many of us have been debating issues of violence and hatred, liberalism versus intolerance, hatred vis-a-vis love, inclusion in the face of exclusion, world peace as opposed to an Us vs Them mentality. These issues are hugely complex, riddled with potholes and prone to many layers of interpretations.

What has all that got to do with my best friend? Well, in a way, nothing. But then, there is this one thing. Once in a while, very rarely, one is fortunate enough to have a person in one's life who becomes the measure of one's value system, of good and of bad, of what relationships are about, what constitutes the emotion of trust. On countless ocassions, I have found myself referring to my friendship with GORKY to understand wildly disparate things in my life: my relationships, my interactions, my choices, my priorities. My husband knows that GORKY is a reference point in my life that helps me unravel many complicated knots, solve many thorny issues. Everytime I have a problem with somebody - anybody - I ask myself the simple question: "if this was a situation between me and GORKY instead of me and this other person, would I still react the same way?" I have been amazed at the number of times my anger, mistrust or hatred for that other person has vanished immediately. Whenever I doubt a person's integrity, loyalty or committment, I put GORKY in that person's place and realize how easy it is to empathise, trust and forgive. Because I choose to trust, all my reactions flow from that trust. Anger dissipates, suspicion dissolves, hurt vanishes. Because I choose to understand, my responses are born out of that understanding. And I find myself a better, warmer, less angry, more generous person.

GORKY doesn't even know that I do this. But I have figured on countless occassions how simple and easy human interaction can be, because of this blessed friendship in my life.

These aggressors, who are waging war on the world, obviously believe everybody is against them. That their very identity is threatened, that sanctioned by a holy book, it is their beholden duty to wage battle against those they consider pagan. These young men have been brainwashed into believing that injustice has been done to their ilk, and it is time to seek vengance. These young men are misguided, confused and very very violent. They are extremely intelligent, very focused, very committed individuals. As a pal of mine said a few days back - with a different orientation, these same men would be an asset to any country and institution. But these young men have been taught to disbelieve, disassociate and distrust. And their distrust begets greater distrust, casts larger shadows of suspicion over the whole world, makes countries retaliate in anger and horror towards their communities, thereby fulfilling the wishful prophecy that they are discriminated against. The inexorable wheel of mistrust turns and becomes a vicious cycle.

In this atmosphere of hatred, suspicion and mistrust, I often juxtapose such complexities with a simplicity in my life called GORKY. A friend, a trusted person, somebody who I will always believe is right, before I believe that he is wrong. When GORKY can't keep his word, I don't doubt his intention, I understand his situation. When GORKY is incommunicado, I don't think he has forgotten me, I realise how screwed his schedule must be. When GORKY says something hurtful, I don't examine his words, I examine what in me caused him to say what he did.

I do not extend this spirit, this expansive way of being to too many other people in my life. I am a lesser, meaner, more angry, less loving person towards many other people some of the time, some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time.

That says something. It says Trust is not born out of people's actions always. Sometimes it's the other way round. Actions and words are born out of a space called Trust. Something as tiny and microcosmic as a personal friendship gives me cues on how human behavior may be genuinely impacted.

What we need desparately in this world today is that ability: to see the right before the wrong. To give the benefit of the doubt before the rejection of judgement. To make bridges and not trenches, to first believe that nobody is against me, there is no agenda, there is no conspiracy theory, that life is fairly simple and the whole world is not out to insult me, my faith and my identity. To chill. To relax in the knowledge that the other guy does not weild a sword. Before we question the validity of the agenda that these violent young men have, we need to question why they have an agenda at all. Why any of us need to have an agenda at all. Even before the whole thing is dangerous and tragic, it's all so melodramatic, so immature and foolish. It's like kids playing at chor sipahi or GI Joes. Simulating Star Wars or Spiderman. It's a fantasy led make belief world with the maturity of a 5 year old. Who on earth has time for agendas between EMIs and paycuts? Who the hell needs to lead a diatribe against a community when we hardly notice the individual? In a world where there is barely enough time to love, where do we find all this time to hate?

My friendship with GORKY simplifies many things in my head for me. It tells me how easy human interaction can be. It shows me how agenda-less all communication can be. It proves to me how simple Trust can be.

The GORKY factor in my life is one that whispers gently: There is another way. There is ALWAYS another way.

Ramu ki Aag

Poor RGV. He could well take a note out of Billy Joel's song book and lament "We Didn't Start the Fire". The fuss around his Taj visit, the full blooded condemnation of his trip to the site and the public outrage around his red circled face on news channels has left even the phlegmatic film maker on the back foot.

I don't get what the brouhaha is all about. Isn't there far more worth concerning ourselves with, than who was part of the hapless VRD's entourage to the site? What does it matter to the issues of national security whether a film maker or a CM's actor son went along or not? After all, barely 96 hours before their visit, the Taj had been visited by those whose entry should have been checked and stopped with far greater alacrity. They went in with guns blazing, destroying our very sense of personal security and well being, and now we were going nuts about RGV visiting the charred and crumbling remains?

Hey, some of my friends in Mumbai went to the site too. Maybe it was morbid curiosity, who knows. But that's only human. We saw the drama unfold on TV for days. Why blame somebody for actually wanting to go and see the place where it all took place?

Here's my guess on what happened. Ritesh boy told daddy dear that he wanted to come along whenever daddy visited. Makes sense - daddy has security. Ritesh wouldn't need to take along his own (if he still harbours illusions of being mobbed that is, after his flop career).

When daddy dear called son to join him, son was with RGV. So Ramu decided to tag along.

Isn't that fairly harmless? Deshmukh surely wasn't going there to give his son and the film maker a 'tour' as the news channels alleged. Even if he fails in the sensitivity department, he can't be that stupid. Not after what happened to RR Patil and Shivraj Patil.

But more importantly, here's what I am genuinely nonplussed about. Why on earth is everybody up in arms if Ram Gopal Verma wants to make a movie around the South Mumbai terror attack? Why is it the sign of ultimate crassness and of a profiteering mentality? Why is the very thought repugnant and horrible?

Film making is a creative art. It is a form of personal expression and a vibrant way to make a statement, show one's point of view and speak one's mind. Yes, sure it's also a profitable business, but it can as much easily run into huge losses. And the reason the commercial stakes are so high is because making a movie also costs much more, takes much more time, physical labour and coordination effort than say, putting pen to paper. You can't just wait for inspiration to strike, you have to do a lot of spadework before a movie idea get translated onto celluloid.

After the terror attack, poets have written poems, journalists have written essays. If a musician performs a piece, a composer composes a special tribute or a painter puts on canvas his personal horror and grief we will stand up and laud their efforts. We will read articles, share poetry, forward blog posts and treat them all as one consolidated creative expression of solidarity.

But if somebody wants to make a movie on the same subject, we will call him crass.

My heart goes out to all my very dear film makers friends in Mumbai - Imtiaz, Gorky, Bijesh, Chandu. I can't help but wonder what they are to do, if they wish to express their anger, hurt, horror, grief and frustration. Must they curb and bottle their feelings simply because their medium of expression is celluloid?

I am a writer. Two night after the attack a poem came to me and it is up on my blog since then. I've got emails, comments, smses and telephone calls about its relevance and validity. What if a film maker wants express how he is feeling about the same issue? He is not allowed to work in the only medium he finds himself able to? That is crass and profiteering simply because a film has to be relased at the box office and be put through the vagaries of hit and flop, while a poem need not be sent to a publisher, a painting may not see a galary?

Let's get real. It doesn't cost that much to write a poem or paint a picture. They can be personal forms of expression while a movie necessarily has to be a public form, depending on an audience for its very survival. That does not mean that people working with the medium have simply become desensitized businessmen. It's also their chosen field of creativity. Cut them some slack.

Cut poor RGV some slack. The hilarious sms floating around about him is a telling comment on how things can get blown out of proportion, with neither logic, nor perspective:
Ram Gopal Verma Ki Kamaai, Do Sarkaar Banai, Ek Giraai!!

Ha ha. Yeh aag bichaarey Ramu ne nahin lagaai!

Monday, December 01, 2008

That Thing Called Home

I am overwhelmed.
By the simplicity of our lives,
Holding the largeness of our love.

Like a seashell holding the ocean.
Like a humble meal hiding exotic spices.
Like a skylark unmindful of the mysteries of its song.
Like a night breeze on a balcony fragrant with drunken blooms.

I am amazed.
At the ordinariness of living.
That fills out with the breath of life.

Quote Hanger

If the automobile had followed the same development cycle as the computer, a Rolls-Royce would today cost $100, get a million miles per gallon, and explode once a year, killing everyone inside. - Robert X. Cringely