Friday, January 30, 2009

the story of the alien creature

After a traumatic couple of hours of changing the blogs clothes, I know the only cure is to write a bubble gum post.

Lets see if you get it.

I just came back from a trip to my favorite place, where this beautiful mountain stands still.

An old friend, film maker, trying to write a script with a writer's block, called me to kick his ass into writing, he said.

So off I went to Tiruvannamalai for the weekend, and asked him what the problem was.

'There is this creature sitting on me.' he said. Now this fellow, lets call him , V, is a strong man, rides a motorcycle, (from Mumbai to Tiru), makes ad films, etc.

'I see.' I said.

'Yes. I feel tired all the time. The other day I had gone for an energy work out (read fancy massage), and the lady told me she can feel this really negative presence around me.'

'I see.' I said.

'So I told her, if this creature is meant to stay with me, he is welcome. It's God's will, right? I mean, he cant stay unless God wants him to, so its Ok with me.'


'If you can do something about it, by all means go ahead. I wont say don't touch him, he is mine'.

I am totally stupefied. To buy time, I say, 'Why don't we discuss the script, V ? Tell me how much you have done.'

And we brainstorm the structure, scenes, dialogues, jokes, song situations. . . .V rejects all my suggestions.

'If not this and not that, then what?' I ask him.

'Yes, and why. And how.'

After a couple of hours I go down to the apartment I am sharing with a couple from Peru, lets call them A and B. A is the guy, B is the lady.

I tell AB about V's creature.

A : Well, I am not surprised. I personally have not encountered creatures one cant see, but I do know a human hybrid.

Me: A what?

A: A Human hybrid. A very nice lady. I have kept her in hiding. In the hills.

Me: Wait a minute. What exactly do you mean by a human hybrid.

A: Her mom was an earthling but Paa was an alien.

Me: Alien? From a space ship? They exist only in the movies.

B: He ain't lying. I have seen her.

Me: Oh. What does she look like?

A: She is tall, six feet, and she is slim that's it. She looks like an earthling, more or less.

Me : Then how do you know she is not a ... pure race?

A: She re-grew her spine. She was paralyzed, but she has healed herself. She is a medical miracle. Her temperature is four degrees lower than normal.

Me : I see. And why are you hiding her?

A: Well, she has a strange energy. You know, like when two people talk, some exchange of energy happens. Like when we are talking, you know, you and me,..

Me: Yes, yes. So people cant stand her.

A: Well, actually she is very cute.

B : Bullocks! Cute, my ass. She is a freak!

A : As you can see, B doesn't like her very much.

I have had enough. I leave them to themselves, and go off to sleep. The next day, I am supposed to meet V for breakfast.

As I get up from meditation, I get an sms. 'I am up since 4 am, writing. Lets meet for lunch.'

So I do my Ramana Ashram, Nithyananda ashram, oh mountain beautiful routine and get another sms. ' I am still writing. How about we meet around 4 pm?'

I spend the afternoon chilling out with the Peru couple. A is sprawled on the sofa, reading my book, B is reading 'Trust me', my sister's book. I am too happy to need a book.

A : Your acknowledgments made me cry. It is really sweet of you to give thanks to the plants.

Me : I once read a book, it said that plants actually control us. They feed us with their ideas, not just vitamins. . .

A : Of cource the plants control us. There is one plant in Peru, which they use in ceremonies, which helps us see the dead.

Me : I didnt quite mean that. . .

Suddenly V makes an entry.

V : Shakti Maa! What did you do to me? I got the begening! And the end! This is how it goes....da da da...

Me : Wow! Perfect! You have a hit!

V: What did you do to me?

Me: I just talked to you, acted as a sounding board.

A : You must have done some magic on V's creature.

B : Or maybe the creature found you more appetising ?

B winked at me, but the thought chased me all the way back to Bangalore. Which is why I have written the creature away.

Let it roam around in Blogosphere....

Dear Architect, Anarchitect, Artist, Designer

In simple language we are looking for a modern, light weight bullock cart, sorry, human cart. Here is a forward from hubby.

CitySpinning has opened a competition for designs of a mobile cultural space in the form of a human powered vehicle which is light, configurable, collapsible, extensible and made with grown or recyclable materials as far as possible.

The competition is a part of the POROUS CITY project, which is an effort of seeking out alternative cultural spaces. Spaces ‬which are living,‭ ‬are in the midst of us,‭ ‬are textured with inconsistency, are more open,‭ ‬welcoming and approachable.‭

The call for proposals is at: Links (for inspiration) of other such projects, submission guidelines and details about the prize and constraints are all up on the site.

Do participate in this competition and encourage you friends to do so too. Feel free to forward this mail. Team-participation is ok, multiple submissions are welcome.



Prayas Abhinav
Artistic Director, Porous City,

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mummumgummum, this is for you

two songs, the best 'i love momma' tearjerkers in hindi that i know.

nope, it's not mother's day, just a few days too many since i met mother dear.

A question from my kid's homework:

'What do you like most about your mother?'

'I like my mother most when she is kind to me'. His answer.

'I love her Lux smell.' My answer.

'I love her food.' Hubby answers. I look at him.

'Come on, ' he says, 'I think we can be honest after eight years of being married. I think my mom is the best cook in the world.'

'So is mine.' I assert.

'Good enough. We can both be right.'

So readers, please tell me. What do you like most in your mother?

To buy A Grasshoppers Pilgrimage, in bookshops and online

(to read more about the book, just click on the image above, the fine print will enlarge.)

If you want to get the book sitting at home, you can order it online:

for overseas (in dollars), try Prints,

for India,

flipkart is the best, for it has a cash on delivery option.

or Rediff .

or Indiaplaza. (at 25 % discount)

or Rupa and Co, the publisher.

or shop in ( for Rs. 135 )

Bookshops in Mumbai where you will probably get my book, 'A Grasshopper's Pilgrimage,' if it hasn't sold out, are as listed below:

All the Crossword Bookshops

Strand Book Stall

Granth Book Store - Goregaon

Ashish Book Centre

Dharma Enterprises

Novelty Book Centre

Varsha Book Center

Oxford Book Centre

Book Lovers

Out of Mumbai :

Mapps Trade Concert Pvt. Ltd. (Baroda)

Simurg Appliances Pvt Ltd. (Ahmedabad)

Crossword ( Mithakali Char rasta, Ahmedabad)

Manneys Book Sellers (Pune)

Laxmi Book Depot (Thane)


Jaika Vanijya Ltd.

Central Book Depot, ( Jhansi ki Rani Square, Nagpur)

Venus Book Depot ( Dharampeth)


Popular Book Depo

Down South

Crossword (Residency road, Bangalore)

Shri Bhagwan Arts (opposite Ramana Ashram, Tiruvannamalai)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Grasshoppers can Vote

Should Sanjay Dutt join politics? But he was a criminal! He possessed AK 47 Guns! He was into drugs! But look at both his parents. Such cute, noble souls. Something must have come through, no?

He is a good actor, no doubt. He was so convincing as a Gandhian in Munnabhai, something must have gone through, no?And, while he was on tenterhooks for so many years, waiting for the case against him to be cleared, he did create a lot of goodwill, for the box-office, for his spot boys and co-actors, for a lady called Manyata...

And, yes, I have had a minor, small, itsy, bitsy crush on him long long back.

So will I vote for him? Of-course not. Politicians don't need sex appeal, they need to be politically correct.

What makes me so sure Sanjay is politically wrong? Because for someone who has had such a bad luck with image, will go extreme ways to prove otherwise. His motive to look good will override the do good, which often clash.

So, if not Sanjay, who else is there?

For the first time in my life, such thoughts are racing in my head.

All, thanks to Mad Momma for giving this link where I have gone and registered myself a voter. It is so simple, can be done online!

This site categorically says that grasshoppers can vote too. You don't have to be a turtle and stay in the same city year after year to be able to vote.

Now my only hope is I don't shift out of Bangalore city before the elections.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Health check for ladies

After lipstick, its female hygiene that needs a makeover.
Pasting a forward that might be useful:

Using pads for more than 3 hours can cause cervical cancer & bacteria infection.

IF u ever wondered what were the ingredients that made popular brands so
'free! and light and carefree', well here's the bit:
The material that makes the pad so paper THIN, is cellulose gel. YEap,
it's not even cotton!!!!!!
DO NOT wear the same pad for more than 3 hours of a maximum!!! After
this duration, the genital area is prone to bacterial action and may
result in cervical cancer or other complications!


No wonder so many women in the world suffer from cervical cancer and
womb tumors. Have you heard that tampon makers include asbestos in
tampons? Why would they do this?

Because asbestos makes you bleed more, if you bleed more, you're going
to need to use more. Why isn't this against the law since asbestos is so
dangerous? Because the powers that be, in all their wisdom (not), did
not consider tampons as being ingested, and, therefore, didn't consider
them illegal or dangerous.
This month's Essence magazine has small article about this and they
mention two manufacturers of a cotton tampon alternative. The companies
are: Organic Essentials @1-800) 765-6491 and Terra Femme @(800)755-0212.

Tampons contain two things that are potentially harmful: Rayon (for
absorbency), and dioxin (a chemical used in bleaching the products). The
tampon industry is convinced that we, as women, need bleached white
products in order to view the product as pure and clean. The problem
here is that the dioxin, which is produced in this bleaching process,
can lead to very harmful problems for a woman. Dioxin is potentially
carcinogenic cancer-associated) and is toxic to the immune and
reproductive systems. It has also been linked to endometriosis and lower
sperm counts for men. For both sexes, it breaks down the immune system.

Last September, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that
there really is no set 'acceptable' level of exposure to dioxin given
that it is cumulative and slow to disintegrate. The real danger comes
from repeated contact. Karen Couppert 'Pulling the Plug on the Tampon
Industry'). I'd say using about 4-5 tampons a day, five days a month,
for 38 menstruating years is 'repeated contact', wouldn't you? Rayon
contributes to the danger of tampons and dioxin because it is a highly
absorbent substance. Therefore, when fibers from the tampons are left
behind in the vagina (as usually occurs), it creates a breeding ground
for the dioxin. It also stays in a lot longer than it would with just
cotton tampons. This is also the reason why TSS (toxic shock syndrome)


Using feminine hygiene products that aren't bleached and that are all
cotton. Other feminine hygiene products
(pads/napkins) contain dioxin as well, but they are not nearly as
dangerous since they are not in direct contact with the vagina. The
pads/napkins need to stop being bleached, but, obviously, tampons are
the most dangerous.

So, what can you do if you can't give up using tampons? Use tampons that
are made from 100% cotton, and that are UNBLEACHED. Unfortunately, there
are very few companies that make these safe tampons. They are usually
only found in health food stores.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


you visualize the air's intentions,
in that graceful manner you speak.

like shoes you hide the world
of light, dust and storm.

when I take you down to wash,
a brighter, whiter room is revealed.

Monday, January 19, 2009

the first lady

My internet addiction is gonna increase, looks like. For I got a mail sweet mail in my inbox today.

A long lost friend, someone with a hilarious sense of humor, wrote to me to say she has bought my book in a shop in New Delhi.

"when i entered my favorite bookshop this afternoon - guess what i saw right in front of me!!!
needless to say, i bought a copy and hope to finish it by this weekend... am working on a proposal for the next 3 days... leave for kolkata on the 22nd and hope to read it on the train."

She must have been the first to buy my book. And I find it sooo romantic that she is going to read it on a train to Cal, for my protagonist, the original grasshopper, spends a lot of her time in trains, to and from Kolkatta.

By the way, the novel, 'A Grasshopper's Pilgrimage' will be out in most bookshops by 21st Jan. Read the book now and come prepared with the rotten eggs or the flowers during the multi-city launch that I am planning in March.

Ramchand Pakistani

I watched this film yesterday evening, after leaving the kid playing in the park. Halfway through the film, I couldn't stand the separation from my baby anymore. I went back to the park and got him back home. We watched the rest of the film together, and that wasn't so bad.

'It's based on a true life story.' I told him.

So take this as a warning. Don't watch this film without your baccha nearby. You might suffer anxiety pangs.

And after we watched the last half of the film together, Pavan wanted to see the beginning (naturally) .

'Ok. I will show you till he crosses the border, ok?'


And we saw again how the eight year old boy has a tiff with his mother over a cup of tea, and walks off in a huff across the Indo-Pak border.

His father, seeing him walk toward the dangerous no man's land, follows him, and they both are caught, questioned, and imprisoned in an Indian jail.

The mother has no idea whether they are dead or alive. They are a hindu family in Pakistan, belonging to the harijan community, and have no clout, not even to make a police complaint.

And the Indian jail imprisons a child of eight along with his father for four, long years.

'So the lesson of the story is not to fight with your mother over small things, right?' the boy volunteers, as I am trying to get him to talk his thoughts about movies.

'No, tukru, the lesson of the film is not to cross the border without a valid visa.' I say.

'Oh. What is a visa?'

'An official permission to enter a country.'

After the kid went to bed, I thought about his interpretation and realized that it was not really off the mark. Most big fights start small, don't they? And big separations begin with small incidences.

After the four years, when they are finally released from the Indian prison, (sorry, I am giving away the ending), the boy is released first, with no hope that the father will be out, and no knowledge of the mother, whether she is still alive.

And Ramchand has to make the back-journey to his village alone, just as he had left four years ago, alone.

And then another thought struck me; the similarity between Pavan's response to Ramchands trauma. Since the whole fight began for a full cup of tea, till date, Ramchand does not drink tea anymore. An eight year old boy gives up his favorite drink out of guilt and fear.

But what was this film really about? My grandmother, a freedom fighter, used to proudly say that we are a constitution that has a judicial system based on a basic premise. Being, if ninety nine culprits go scot free, it is ok. But not a single innocent should ever be punished.

This ratio has reversed, and so help us God.

Here is a beautiful song from the film.

Brilliant performances, evocative landscapes, and an even pace, which is a big achievement for a first film. The austerity, the minimum dialogue, is a style that comes back once every ten years. It's almost worth the wait.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sunna Sabki, Karna Apni

Listen to everyone with respect, but do your own thing!

My grandfather, whom we all called Biraji, loved to dish out inspiring sentences to us. A la politician, he would repeat his one liners with pauses, rendering us speechless. I remember him low angle, although I was thirty plus when he passed away.

He was tall and handsome, but not overbearing. He had a beautiful smile and he smiled a lot. He lived a simple life, teaching Maths and Physics in a school, going and coming on his black cycle. He did Yoga every morning, drank hot milk out of a glass and saucer, and did not tolerate chillies in his food. He would always have some kaju badam or fruits for us whenever we met.

He was honest to the core; he payed tax on his tutions. He was the best teacher I have ever been taught by. He spoke less, did more. He had enormous patience with his students, specially the stupid ones.

He had only one major problem in his life: he could neither appreciate nor understand my grandmother's poetry. Unfortunately, granny never could separate her identity from her art. (Who can?)

He told me stories of great men like the Buddha, but his eyes shone most when he us told stories from his own life.

Early 1940's.

Nagpur Jail.

A young Biraji was reading GB Shaw's Man and Superman, hunger gnawing at his stomach, his head splitting with pain. He was on a hunger strike, and he was in prison because he was a freedom fighter, a revolutionary (or that's what we have always been told).

He and the other comrades were fasting, I forget why, they must have had a cause. Now Biraji always had a weak constitution, and he was wondering if he is going to die. They had not eaten for five days, and he was feeling very weak and weird. He was contemplating taking a sick leave from the fast.

So these were the circumstances in which he was reading a book, G B Shaw's, 'Man and Superman'. And he came upon a sentence,

'Man can never achieve anything of real value, because he is not willing to make a sacrifice.'

This made such a deep impact on him, that he made a firm resolve :

'Marunga to chalega, lekin bhook hartal nahin chodunga.'

'Even if I die, I will not give up the fast'.

And, as soon as he had made this decision, all his aches, pains, hunger, fear, everything vanished! Phoosh! All gone!

I have heard this story at least a dozen times, so I had to let it out.

But why have I suddenly remembered Biraji? To me, Biraji was the most politically correct person ever. After independence, after a few years in prison, he thought about what he had done. He had in fact, gone against what Gandhiji taught, non-violence. In the fight for freedom, he had gone the Bhagat Singh way; not actually harming anyone but threatening them, causing unrest and chaos.

So he talked with granny, a fellow comrade and his wife (she discovered the art much later), about atoning their sins. Since they had caused harm, they must now heal society. They decided to open a school for the street urchins. Since he had a job, it fell on granny to raise funds. And the black-listed, ex-communist went door to door to ask for donations. Every night, she would come home weeping, swearing she is not going out the next day for more insults. And every night, he would talk her out of it, saying that as long as her heart is clean, she need not take them seriously.

Within one year, they had collected two thousand rupees, and they started their school. That they were imprisoned again is another story. It did not stop the school. Today, this school has three branches in Nagpur, and one orphanage.

So you see why I have so much respect for my dear grandfather. And because he still lives in me, I would like to address him.

Biraji, I am sorry if my last post upset you. I don't mean to rebel against what I was brought up to believe. I will never support the excess in religion. You know that. I see myself as going forwards from where you left. You achieved for us external freedom from the British, and ingrained in us a sense of belonging for this land and its people. You put me in a good school, you made sure I went to school everyday. You taught me with so much patience, and so much silence, it has helped me tremendously in the seeking to understand myself.

There is something else you taught me. Dignity and satisfaction with what ever little one has. If it weren't for this I would never have given so much time to the inner world. I would have been too busy making money.

Although you proclaimed yourself to be an atheist, you never ever displayed arrogance towards the believers. Which is why I feel that you were deep down a seeker. You were too sweet to be an atheist.

Am I imposing myself on you? Ok, I back off. You have a right to your views. Since I don't have proof that God exists, and since neither do you have a proof that god doesn't exist, we can agree to differ.

In the last years, sometimes you were too tired to talk. And more than once you requested, 'Tell me something about that fellow, Ramana Maharishi.'

It felt strange narrating the story of a saint who loved a mountain to an atheist, so I went on the 'Who am I ' track. I also told you to meditate on your spiritual heart, two fingers towards right of the center of the chest .

Now that you have crossed over to the other realm, in fact you may be knowing a lot more of God. You probably are an angel yourself.

So it is good that I remember you low angle. One of these days I just might see you . . .

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Spiritually and Politically in-correct, but who cares?

Last week, me and hubby did something we haven't been doing for a long time. For four continuous nights, we saw four documentary films on the saint Kabir. Hubby is to do an interview with the film maker, Shabnam Virmani. Shabnam is into Kabir like an iron bucket into a well. She has made these four films on Kabir, more about them here.

For anyone even remotely interested in spirituality, oral tradition, devotional singing, qawalis, the real kabir bhakts, these films are a feast. They are coming on NDTV, in the documentary section. Do watch them. Here is the schedule.

Had-Anhad (Bounded-Boundless)


Jan 14 & 15 (Wed & Thurs) - (Half hour slots) 9:30 to 10 pm
Repeat on Jan 18 (Sunday) - (One hour slot) 1 to 2 pm


Jan 21 - 22 (Wed & Thurs) - (Half hour slots) 9:30 to 10 pm
Repeat on Jan 25 - (Sunday) - (One hour slot) 1 to 2 pm

Kabira Khada Bazaar Mein (In the Market stands Kabir)


Jan 28 - 29 (Wed & Thurs) - (Half hour slots) 9:30 to 10 pm
Repeat on Feb 1 (Sunday) - (One hour slot) 1 to 2 pm


Feb 4 - 5 (Wed & Thurs) - (Half hour slots) 9:30 to 10 pm
Repeat on Feb 8 (Sunday) - (One hour slot) 1 to 2 pm

But what I was saying was, yes. Hubby and I. Not only did we see these films together, we even spoke about them.

'Kabir is spiritually and politically correct, isn't he?' asks Hubs.

'Yes, I suppose he fits into the elite, the secular framework.' I reply.

'Then why do you keep watching this hindu-hindu, saffron robed gale mein mala jhamela?

I smile. Finally, hubby has made an intelligent observation and asked me a question!

'Because, darling, he talks to my heart. And my heart does not have a filter. Neither does it need a secular approval, nor a scientific basis, it does not even consult my mind. It is a smart heart. It is protected from myths and superstitions about dangers of the color saffron. It has given itself the freedom to mingle with them all.'

On that note, here is a you-tube video of a very funny and insightful talk by Swami Nithyananda.

And, I would like to go on record that hubby sits with me for meditation every day, albeit a little reluctantly. I am willing to go to jail for forcing him into something he is confused about.

Monday, January 12, 2009

my bonnie blue book is out

Finally, finally, after three years of writing it, 'A Grasshopper's Pilgrimage' is all set to see the light of the day.

These are the first reactions of people I called to tell them that the postman just delivered two bonnie blue babies of mine.

novelist sister: How does it feel to hold your book in your hands?

me: It's a scrawny little thing. The font is smaller than what I wrote it in.

sis: Don't say that! Give it a kiss. Welcome it into this world.

geek hubby: Photo le and blogit.

Aai: who are you calling for the mumbai launch?

me: meaning? I will invite all those I know.

aai: the chief guest, stupid.

me: Tom Alter will come. He was one of the first to like the book.

aai: Who will come to see tom alter? You need a cute little thing!

me: a cute little thing?

aai: yes sir!

novelist dost: stop calling people. savor this moment. sit for a few minutes holding it in your lap.

brat : your book has come! now I will learn to read. can I take one for my friend? can I, can I?

mithaiwallah: why didn't you write in kannad, amma?

neighbor: (leafing through it ), is it about shree Ramakrishna?

me: Umm... not exactly...

neighbor: when it will come in the book shops?

me: I don't know, in a week or two. But you can order it from the Indiaplaza online store. They are giving a twenty five percent discount.

brat: but Aai, how can a leaf hold a mountain?

me: but Pavan, how else will the grasshopper go on a pilgrimage?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The President is coming

A few days back, my favorite student form the Film Institute, Satchit Puranik, wrote to me saying I must watch

The President is Coming.

Since I knew that Satchit is into theater a lot, I presumed that he was talking about a play.
I saw him online and popped a question in the chat box.

When are you guys coming to Bangalore?

I don't know. No such plans right now.

Oh, I won't be able to see the President then.

Why? You cant go see a film on your own?

It's a film? I thought its a play.

It's a film, darling. Read the mail again.

Oh, Ok, ... It was a play, now its a film?

Yup. Do see it.

Sure I will. First day, first show.

Before I went for the show yesterday evening, I saw this video on popcorn and was quite exited at the thought of seeing a different kind of film. The video shows how stars torment directors and I was feeling sorry for Kunal, the director of the President.

And just before leaving the house, like an idiot I promised a review, and when I was coming home I was thinking, I will just delete the post, but I got a comment from Smita which said, 'Waiting' and now, well...

Actually, Satchit is more than just my favorite student. He has read my novel, and suggested that an Indo-European film can be made from it. Satchit is my hope that 'A Grasshopper's Pilgrimage', will one day hit the screen.

So you see, I cannot write a bad review in a film that he has acted. And he has done a good job. He is a 'social worker from Nagpur', my home town, he breaks out in Marathi (my mother tongue) time and again, he hits an asshole with his chappal, (so goes barefoot for a minute); Yes, I could almost identify with his character.

I even liked Konkana's role. She is a novelist. Who can beat a man and break his nose too. Which felt weird, but then, its a weird movie. It's funny alright, but even the laughter meditation we do in Yoga classes is not more than a full five minutes. A good comedy is always interspersed with enough action, songs, relief, breaks, and the really good ones even explain their jokes.

I mean, the only build up here is 'who will get to shake the President's hand?' I think I have been out of Ftii too long and my sensibilities are ruined by Hindi films. Or, like a good friend recently mentioned, I have become a 'spiritual junkie' and need to be inspired all the time.

What I am trying to say is that the film was good, so what if I don't have a taste for satire? Do see it if you like to see stupid people doing doing stupid things. But don't take your kids along, the jokes are too non-vegetarian for their subconscious minds.

Here is a video of the director and Satchit, arguing about film sensibilities. Followed by a funnier
bit about how an actor does not want the film to release because his parents think he works in a bank.

Now I wonder if these 'funnier than the film' promos have been scripted or they are genuinely impromptu.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Coming Soon

A review of The President is Coming!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

mere dushman, mere bhai

This post is a response to the 'I hate Pakistan' movement I have been noticing on a lot of blogs recently.

What is a myth? To me, a myth is a popular belief, an understanding that covers our ignorance. And where there is fear, hate is an appropriate cover, isnt it?

I have never been to Pakistan, though I admit that I would like to visit. I have seen a tv serial, 'Dhoop Kinare', which was about a young doctor falling in love with an Amitabh- look alike elder doctor. We watched this serial in the good old days, eight cassettes in two days, each cassette three hours long!

I do not know if Pakistanis hate Indians. In the serial, they didn't even acknowledge us, but the doctor was so handsome that I don't blame them.

Yes, I also saw a film last year, Khuda Ke liye. A brilliant narrative, this film talked about tolerance, humanity, and freedom. It also went into the psyche of a young mind trapped by fanatisism.

And, I saw a documentary film made by a friend, Shabnam Virmani, where she portrayed different Kabir bhakts in India and Pakistan. I remember one dialogue from her film. When she reaches Karachi, and sits in the car that is taking her to the house of the singer, his chela says to her, 'There is no boundary for artists. The boundary between India and Pakistan is for the babu log (government fellows). Between artists there is no boundary.'

And the way this devotee sings and talks Kabir, the depth of his understanding of the fifteenth century poet, is surpassed only by the 'haq', the ownership he feels towards his master. I cant remember his name, but he is another Nusrat in the making.

I still don't know if Pakistanis hate Indians, but I do know of one Pakistani who loves saint Kabir. The name of this film is Had-Anhad. It is a profound search for Kabir, how different people have absorbed him.

And, one more dialogue, if I may, from a Shah-Rukh Khan film, 'Veer Zara', where the Pakistani heroine, Preity answers the hero in a song, when he goes on and on about mera des butiful. 'tere Des ko maine dekha, tere des ko maine jaana. Jane kyon lagta, mujhe jaana pehchana. Aisa hi des hai mera, jaisa des hai tera.' ( I have seen your country, and you know what, it's just like mine.)

I got this article from here. Before you think I am in love with this blogger, I must mention here that I do not endorse a Shah-Rukh bashing post she has done.

So let us examine the basis of our beliefs. It takes a lot of strength to admit to the one thing we do know: that we do not really really know. We just presume, and we pass judgment. We are afraid, and we build walls. And when we build walls, we might feel secure, but we lose the horizon.

Ten myths about Pakistan

By Mohammed Hanif

Living in Pakistan and reading about it in the Indian press can sometimes be quite a disorienting experience: one wonders what place on earth they’re talking about? I wouldn’t be surprised if an Indian reader going through Pakistani papers has asked the same question in recent days. Here are some common assumptions about Pakistan and its citizens that I have come across in the Indian media.

Pakistan controls the jihadis:

Or Pakistan’s government controls the jihadis. Or Pakistan Army controls the jihadis. Or ISI controls the jihadis. Or some rogue elements from the ISI control the Jihadis. Nobody knows the whole truth but increasingly it’s the tail that wags the dog. We must remember that the ISI-Jihadi alliance was a marriage of convenience, which has broken down irrevocably. Pakistan army has lost more soldiers at the hands of these jihadis than it ever did fighting India.

Musharraf was in control, Zardari is not:

Let’s not forget that General Musharraf seized power after he was fired from his job as the army chief by an elected prime minister. Musharraf first appeased jihadis, then bombed them, and then appeased them again. The country he left behind has become a very dangerous place, above all for its own citizens.

There is a latent hankering in sections of the Indian middle class for a strongman. Give Manmohan Singh a military uniform, put all the armed forces under his direct command, make his word the law of the land, and he too will go around thumping his chest saying that it’s his destiny to save India from Indians. Zardari will never have the kind of control that Musharraf had. But Pakistanis do not want another Musharraf.

Pakistan, which Pakistan?

For a small country, Pakistan is very diverse, not only ethnically but politically as well. General Musharraf’s government bombed Pashtuns in the north for being Islamists and close to the Taliban and at the same time it bombed Balochs in the South for NOT being Islamists and for subscribing to some kind of retro-socialist, anti Taliban ethos. You have probably heard the joke about other countries having armies but Pakistan’s army having a country. Nobody in Pakistan finds it funny.

Pakistan and its loose nukes:

Pakistan’s nuclear programme is under a sophisticated command and control system, no more under threat than India or Israel’s nuclear assets are threatened by Hindu or Jewish extremists. For a long time Pakistan’s security establishment’s other strategic asset was jihadi organisations, which in the last couple of years have become its biggest liability.

Pakistan is a failed state:

If it is, then Pakistanis have not noticed. Or they have lived in it for such a long time that they have become used to its dysfunctional aspects. Trains are late but they turn up, there are more VJs, DJs, theatre festivals, melas, and fashion models than a failed state can accommodate. To borrow a phrase from President Zardari, there are lots of non-state actors like Abdul Sattar Edhi who provide emergency health services, orphanages and shelters for sick animals.

It is a deeply religious country:

Every half-decent election in this country has proved otherwise. Religious parties have never won more than a fraction of popular vote. Last year Pakistan witnessed the largest civil rights movements in the history of this region. It was spontaneous, secular and entirely peaceful. But since people weren’t raising anti-India or anti-America slogans, nobody outside Pakistan took much notice.

All Pakistanis hate India:

Three out of four provinces in Pakistan — Sindh, Baluchistan, NWFP — have never had any popular anti-India sentiment ever. Punjabis who did impose India as enemy-in-chief on Pakistan are now more interested in selling potatoes to India than destroying it. There is a new breed of al-Qaida inspired jihadis who hate a woman walking on the streets of Karachi as much as they hate a woman driving a car on the streets of Delhi. In fact there is not much that they do not hate: they hate America, Denmark, China CDs, barbers, DVDs , television, even football. Imran Khan recently said that these jihadis will never attack a cricket match but nobody takes him seriously.

Training camps:

There are militant sanctuaries in the tribal areas of Pakistan but definitely not in Muzaffarabad or Muridke, two favourite targets for Indian journalists, probably because those are the cities they have ever been allowed to visit. After all how much training do you need if you are going to shoot at random civilians or blow yourself up in a crowded bazaar? So if anyone thinks a few missiles targeted at Muzaffarabad will teach anyone a lesson, they should switch off their TV and try to locate it on the map.

RAW would never do what ISI does:

Both the agencies have had a brilliant record of creating mayhem in the neighbouring countries. Both have a dismal record when it comes to protecting their own people. There is a simple reason that ISI is a bigger, more notorious brand name: It was CIA’s franchise during the jihad against the Soviets. And now it’s busy doing jihad against those very jihadis.

Pakistan is poor, India is rich:

Pakistanis visiting India till the mid-eighties came back very smug. They told us about India’s slums, and that there was nothing to buy except handicrafts and saris. Then Pakistanis could say with justifiable pride that nobody slept hungry in their country. But now, not only do people sleep hungry in both the countries, they also commit suicide because they see nothing but a lifetime of hunger ahead. A debt-ridden farmer contemplating suicide in Maharashtra and a mother who abandons her children in Karachi because she can’t feed them: this is what we have achieved in our mutual desire to teach each other a lesson.

Image courtesy Nicholson cartoons

Sunday, January 4, 2009

on darkness,

a beautiful talk by Swami Nithyananda.

become aware of darkness

cats can see in darkness and so can we

if you are frightened of darkness, of ghosts, this technique will help you

a person who is not afraid of darkness will never fall into depression

darkness is where we came from, our mother's womb, where we go every night, to rejuvenate

the pillow is like the womb, the sleeping position is like the womb, we need darkness, then why sleep when it is dark

let the eyes enjoy darkness too

he danced around the mountain,

in utter, speechless joy, this dancing, no talking sadhu baba.

and he died, a couple of weeks ago, run over by a motorcycle on the pradakshina road. It seems he knew it was his time, from what he told people in the morning.

They have built a samadhi for him, since he knew about his approaching death. How I wish I had seen him dancing.

What I regret is my insensitivity towards sadhus, that I don't remember seeing him. Just because they beg is no excuse that we miss looking into their eyes.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

a life in a palm leaf

I found this video from a google alert for Tiruvannamalai. :).

Its a palm leaf reader identifying a life story from a palm leaf. I like the sing song way he reads the Sanskrit ( ?).

The astrologer asks, or tells this foreigner facts about his life.

The foreigner has only one dialogue that he keeps repeating.


Duration 4 :38 minutes

The reader is in Tiruvannamalai. His contact:

Sri Agathiar Mahasiva Vakiya Nadi Jothida Nilayam
11A Vada Othavadai Street
(Near Swathi Lodge, North Temple Gate)
Tiruvannamalai 606601

Tel: 04175-320069

He charges 1000 rupees per kandem and a 150 charge for an English translator.

To me, astrology is true, but time pass. Life is not so bad that I need to know where it will end. And neither is it so fantastic that I never ever want to leave.

And there is certain freedom in not knowing, an excitement, an enthusiasm, a struggle, an openness towards the tomorrows.

But if and when something intense is going on and I need a perspective, I will probably seek out this palm reader in Tiru.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Jumbo is a hit.

So you don't watch cartoon fillums?

But you must watch Jumbo. It is compulsory. Understand, there is no option.

Jumbo is not a cartoon fillum. It is an art fillum. Rather, it is very highly artistic fillum.

Isme action hai, emotion hai, drama hai!

There is Haathi mera Saathi, a sad story of a baby blue elephant, where papa is missing. Mama with eyelashes is there. She tickles Jumbo till he goes lotepote, and tells him to forget Papa! Papa gone. I here. We here. But Jumbo, he leaves a sleeping Mama to find Papa.

Nice story, no? Meaning, story is there. Something is happening.

Best are the dialogues, and better is the dialogue delivery!

There is comedian, a kabutar, who sounds like apna regular what's his name yaar? he is very regular, you will start laughing on his voice only, no need to understand meaning. And if you dont laugh, how will the brat ever understand a joke?

Jumbo is blue and Sonia? She is pink.

And the vilian? Is Insaan, and he is pronounced like Shaitaan! I told you the dialogue delivery is super, didn't I?

But all Insaans are not Shaitaan, as Jumbo will soon discover, in his 'quest' to find Papa. And the battle scenes? Classic. Reminded me of Ben Hur, those elephants and the wooden logs.

Some visuals are sooo romantic, you will never ever forget. Like the white kabutarni who comes directly from the moon to bring 'sandesa' of Papa to Jumbo. Ok, maybe I am not being completely honest, but yaar, please understand, I also have a little creative liscence no?

After all, I saw this entire two hours long fillum with bacchaa who didnt blink once even.

The problem with watching a film with a serious viewer : One can neither whistle nor gossip nor distract. If only I wasnt a film wali at heart, I would have exercised control and forced him to stop at Interval. But tell me, folks, have you ever walked out of a super dooper hit film in the interval and not hung your head in shame?

If I cant teach him English, at least let me teach him to appreciate good cinema. And this aint no back handed compliment. I mean every single word. Jumbo is mast. A must watch.

Here is the trailor. At least watch it, even if you dont have sound on your comps, you miserable people.

Play to win or play to play

And so one learns to teach, and teaches to learn ....

This is about Parenting, and Education, by the way.

Although we have put our kid in an alternative school (read, no tests, no homework, a happy go lucky place), we are not at ease. We keep wondering why his spelling is so bad, why his attention wavers so much during studying, etc.

And so, finally we succumbed to the old trick.

Papa bought a football for Pavan. (He loses it almost every month). And told him that he can have it only if he passes a 'test', in which he will have spelling, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division all together. Out of thirty five marks, if he scores at least twenty, the ball is his. If he gets more than thirty marks, he gets a chocolate too.

One hour for preparation, and the time starts now!

I have never seen the boy this enthusiastic. I am cooking, but he comes into the kitchen and gets me to help him with his revision. He memorizes big words like ' pradakshina' as I fry the onions. Then we do some multiplications and divisions. Dinner is almost ready and only five minutes left for the test to begin. The little one suggests that we quickly re revise his spellings once more!

Papa announces that no music, no eating in the same room, no distractions. The stop watch starts. And test begins. Like all tests, this has a big surprise. Instead of spellings (from the essay on 'holiday in Tiru' which I had made him write the previous day), he has to write a paragraph on his recent holiday.

Pavan quickly comes to the kitchen and touches my feet. I am thrilled. 'Papa too!' I tell him.
He is looking at the football on Papa's table as he gets his blessings.

For an hour the entire family goes through the 'test' vibrations. Pavan takes a water break, then a pee break, then a potty break. The stop watch pauses.

The boy is again looking at the football as Papa corrects his paper.

'Should I cut marks for bad grammar?' Papa asks me.

'Please don't. It was supposed to be a spelling test.' I say.

And, he gets..... twenty five out of thirty five ......and jumps in joy on Papa's table and grabs his football...and breaks the rule of not playing inside the house for the next two hours....

'This was a good idea.' I say to Prayas over dinner.'Maybe we should put him in a regular school with tests and marks and numbers.'

'Lets see.' he says, the wise one for a change.


Two days later, I ask Pavan to study.

'What will I get ? A Skateboard?' he asks.

In panic, I write to his god mother, first teacher of Riverside school, Navjyoti. Here is her answer.

Rewards and punishments have long ago been rejected through research and studies. Learning has to be a joy in itself, not something inspired by an extrinsic reward. Intrinsic motivation is critical to making him a lifelong learner. How long will you give him balls and bats? Won't his demands for rewards become bigger with time? The real world will give him no rewards for every little step of his, which will be a disappointment for him when he goes out there. When we try to allure them with rewards or threaten with punishments, the message we give is that if it weren't for these, my teaching or your learning wouldn't be worth it!
You need to find schools that are truly focused on each student. Its unfortunate that our schools teach subjects, not children.