Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Prelude - Hollow echoes


I'm sitting with fashionable candles that rarely sway to the air's rhythm

Tantric beats fondle with me like a toy in an infant's hand

the three witches are dead for they find the existence camouflaged with the dull atmosphere

the cactus is pricked by the ignorance of the missing thorns

as the sand slips away, the reflections of the light in sky is conspicuously absent

I catch the air in the dry tear that was hoping to kiss the optimist's smile

the steps left behind by the play of hopscotch are washed by the shifting layers of time

At a distance I see another soul

Gathering what all is left, the weakone braves the raging storm

A doubt laughs aloud - this isnt what you think it is

He is the one hwo saw light in blind darkness and nothing can scare him

Scarred, chipped, bleeding, as I near him, it vanishes into thin air

God said - I'm sorry but the mirage moved away'

I let a scream, the loudest one in ages

it got devoured by the invisible demon......

(hollow echoes begin..............)

Double or Die/Young Bond 3

Yound Bond 3
Charles Higson
Puffin Books
£6.99

Years ago, there was a movie that chronicled the life of Ian Fleming, the man who created the suave superspy James Bond. The secret life of Ian Fleming, starring the legendary Sean Connery’s son Jason, told us the story of how the womanising writer got thrown out of Eton and how be becomes a journalist with Reuters. In addition, his own clandestine immersion into and mission with SOE, the erstwhile dormant yet watchful military intelligence.
This was the time Brosnan was ‘piercing’ through the hearts of women and men alike; for different reasons of course. Now this Remington Steele looked a lot younger than all his predecessors, not that he was when portraying the role, but he appeared. It was during this time that this reviewer saw the Fleming movie and started wondering about – how did Bond become Bond, James Bond!
How were his primary years and more importantly where? He surely didn’t become the man with a golden gun overnight! This is where you must pick up Charles Higson’s Young Bond series.
Ok, first things first. This book is now officially titled ‘Double or Die’.
Why the newsflash? Once the book was released with a very basic jacket, a contest ran online that asked viewers about its name. An aggressive PR exercise, this saw millions dropping in and finally in January the author announced the title and unveiled a new jacket.
Jimmy Bond – don’t forget that he is a boy albeit an extraordinary one – has to crack a cryptic letter that arrives in Eton. He has forty-eight hours in which he has to undertake gambles and eventually save his professor’s life. Lest we forget that the danger looms not on these two alone, but the world. Ah! The proverbial mission Bond always embarks on!
The one who started as an active young adolescent in Blood Fever, the first in the series, is now going to learn skills that would make him the lethal nemesis of the world villains later in his life.
There is a play happening in the brain while reading that imagines Jimmy to become Connery or Daniel Craig.
This is not a heavy book, not that it is that light a la Hardy Boys. Don’t look at the artwork, it will only disappoint, initially. But once you are through the first two numbered chapters – there is a preface chapter - the fun that builds up is one that amuses a reader of every age.

Double or Die is fast, not like one of the spy’s sleeks cars, but fast indeed.
A tip: do not, under any temptations, read the preface. The fun heightens when the reader deduces the mystery using his own imagination.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Oudh Nights

The Oudh Nights: Tales of Nawab Wazirs, Kings and Begums of Lucknow
Author: A P Bhatnagar

History is inarguably one of the best topics to study, academically or for hobby sake. Provided the retelling does not paint a picturesque frame as the title might suggest, but recalls the making of a culture, evolution of the civilisation there, and the small stories revolving around the central one that provides enjoyment in reading for everyone.

Prof A P Bhatnagar had found wide acceptance and acclaim with his earlier work ‘Delhi and its Fort Palace – a Historical Preview’. His second title is very meticulously drafted and with patience. For a lot of us, Lucknow is where the celebrated Nawab Wajid Ali Shah once sat on the throne. The city that speaks of its chickenkarhi, courtesans, cuisine, mannerisms and elegant attires. There is more to it.

The city situated on the banks of River Gomti is certainly not that ancient as Kashi or Ayodhya and does not find a relevant historic mention until the time of the Shia Mughal governors of Oudh. And this is where the book starts.

A brief mention in the beginning speaks of the state of Awadh with its various names under the Kushanas, Mauryas and several empires. Once that is done in the apt way, as in short and crisp, the first mughal incursion gets written about beginning from Saiyad Saalar Masud, Mahmud of Ghazni’s nephew in 11th century. Telling more from here will destroy the beauty the work boasts of.

Bhatnagar’s excellence is not just about the historical accuracy or the year-by-year retelling of the state. But, the raconteur mantle he dons while taking his reader on a joyride throughout. His academic rectitude and quest for meticulous details excites one’s admiration and interest.

There are a couple of assertions made by him, specifically about Wajid Ali Shah that one may find difficult to digest in the first reading but once they are understood well, it can be said that the assertions are gentle and thought provoking and of course well illustrated.

The ending has been done brilliantly giving Appendices on the elements that make up the Lucknow of the Nawabs, existing art, craft, culinary art and architecture that once shone like a jewel in the crown.

The miseducation of women by James Tooley

There are two factors that less than avid readers look out for in a new book; the jacket and the preface by the author. What if, an author turns out to be smart by writing an entire chapter that works as a preface? Smarter would be the magnetic charm in the writing that even someone who is not much interested would be disallowed to discontinue.

James Tooley has picked up one of the lip smacking topics for anyone from any age, Feminism. It is a subject that brings out animal instinct in terms of uncivilised and baseless arguments. Like communism, it lies thoroughly misinterpreted and abused. Thanks to the system of education we all grow up in, it is passed on as a legacy to our female counterparts (and lots of pretentious ones too, from both sexes) without any proper foundation of the idea that in the first place never blatantly hinted at equality. All it turns out to be is blasphemous.

In short, miseducation that dominates feminism largely. And this is the territory where this gutsy male writer has gone into. The tone is direct, and replete with questions. The book does not admonish the concept or the flag bearers, but raises important and pertinent queries as to why it has become what it is now?

Both the post and pre modern eras of writers’ and audiences’ minds have been explored. This includes Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s who Tooley sees as an extension of feminists who fought for blank equality views. Women in their 30s who wanted to be independent once and are now lonely but feel themselves difficult to express.

This is the humorous and direct tone with which this book begins. By the time you have reached the last page of the first chapter, Tooley tells you the reason for not writing a preface but an elongated introduction that does the work smartly.

The fact that men and women were equal from the day God created Eve from Adam’s rib. To me and people (men and women alike) like Tooley, this phenomena means that neither is complete without the other. We need women as much as they need us. Yes, there are few differences but the gap is not astronomical in terms of distance that makes a certain Mr Gray come up with Venus and Mars ideology. For Christ’s sake, we were born on Earth and we belong to it.

The world is replete with ideologies thumping on Feminism, but no one wishes to explore it, question the different view points expressed right from the time of Renaissance which is authentically the period (as much as I know) when it all began. We float on the surface of scum and don’t wish to cleanse the gutter at the bottom. And it all lies in the non-updated, blindfolded (mis)education we have all been provided with.

Tooley questions, explores, and desires to bring a change in the thinking.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Recovered from Hiatus

GREETINGS!!!! It has been some time, no; IT HAS BEEN SOME TIME since I was away from this escape space of mine. Why do I call it the escape space and whom am I greeting? No point in answering that. It is my blog! Over the years I have formed this strong bond with Jenny, my diary that whenever I scribble in after a long time there is an apology that is very personal. Now, much like the Pygmalion, Jenny and these web spaces have become my best friends. And I am so attached to these confidantes, at times I feel really bad not talking to them.
The reason is very simple – they listen to me, the way I wish to talk to them, tell them what is there in my head, why am I crying dry tears and what is really pissing me off. I remember last week I was going through my huge casket that I call ‘library’ and in a strangled state there was the very first red diary that saw moonstruck taking a birth. It felt so good to read that atrocious piece of ink I called ‘writing a diary entry’ but it is so close to my heart.
There is a line that reads, ‘today as these people have ditched me again, there is a loner inside me that is crying out loud shouting, will someone just listen to me! I don’t know if I can call a diary anything, girls name their journals, but maybe I won’t be a loser grumbling in a corner. So I’ll speak here thinking somebody in my lifetime ever comes across this’.
So, I felt the need to bounce back to writing, as there is this feeling of finding someone who is all ears for me. The last time there was an entry was when legendary James Brown expired. And as always, nice guy Jerry replied. Thanks man.
Now in this New Year, 2007, so much has happened that just kept on pushing me in my shell more and more. Earlier this year, there was the break up. I have never come so close to any girl in my life. Aditi, she is… she is an angel. A woman with whom I shared my childhood, a fiery bond, explosive chemistry, understanding without speaking, and an affair that happened, just like that. It was probably the fastest and the strongest affair in my life ever. And I know that I may never get into one again. After Prajakta, Ayesha and someone I can’t name, it was Aditi, whom I felt really close to. But differences cropped up and now we are two instead of one.
But I love her, ummm. Ok this sounds very strange but I have never learnt the science of moving on. There is nothing like that. I have shared so much with people and I love all of them so much (others included apart from these girls) that I still believe someday they might bump into me and we will start talking again. HOPELESS ROMANTIC, ETERNAL DREAMER, such a doofus I am, this world tells me, but I will not give up on this nature of mine. The point is I will continue loving those people who came in my life and went because of any explicable or inexplicable reason. So whether or not we are together, I will always love ADITI.

Now when all of this happened, I decided to bring some sort of change in my life. Enough of the monstrous monogamous monotony (I just love alliteration). First step – a new sort for work opportunity. Something that takes me back to my roots, my passions of story telling, theatre and acting. Before that, let me begin how the week from January 27 started on THE party note.

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This Saturday was already one of those crazy maniacal times we have at Morrison. This time, a huge bunch of us, including the three stooges trio at Morrison (Derick, Abhijeet and Moi), were having such a fucking good time. The non-stop comic experience that lasted for like three hours left us all with a light head and a smile. Next day was Varun Cobain’s birthday. The plan had seen a change almost everyday since the beginning of the week. This time, we froze on a nice Sunday afternoon, with bar-be-cue and old friends and new.

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It had been a long time since I did a bar-be-cue. And this was just the perfect time. Since I wont have been in a state to reach the graveyard called office, I sent a message at 11:00 am to Sandeep Sir, thinking this man would be like ‘great Sunday start’. Anyway, I just rushed to the birthday boy’s place with the grill and all. Aunty, being the lovely mom she is, was all set for the delights. She had prepared the mutton, paneer, potatoes and fish was getting ready. I was like cool, lets burn the damn coals soon. There was Mishu, the helpful Buster Keaton, Sakina, who had prepared the chicken and the cake, Ankur and his girlfriend, who in aunty’s words looked cut from the same pottery (they look really cute, touchwood), Sidhartha, but of course Reeti, how can I miss her, I was actually happy to see the entire family together, and yes Rahul and his wife too. My excitement was like gradually increasing given the quality of grilled delights. It had been really long and this time I was more than happy to enjoy it.
In between, walked in a figure that we all know, and I am sure that lots of them know her. The picture is here, I could not find a better one, and so I pasted two. Gayatri Kachru is an old friend of the Mathur family and everyone knew her there except me and my sweetu Lavanya. There was a strange look on varun’s face when she called up as she was just round the corner. And then the effervescent personality she is, there was a constant chattering happening around me. Luckily she was inside talking to uncle and aunty. An old relationship gone sour, an intelligent girl who has lost it, someone who could have been more successful and actually used her life, there were these multitude of reactions I could make out from all the faces that day. I was lucky, lucky enough to be in my most cherished position – that of an observer.
She intrigued me at first, but then it was washed away.
Anyway, so once the whole afternoon was over, and everyone had gone back, it was time for the birthday boy, moi, lavanya, mishu and sakina to have their own time. We had bacardi for starters and then quickly we shifted to Jameson.
This was some day, as we continued the whole thing from one of the most Sunday afternoons we have all had in a long time, at Morrison. Reeti was performing with her cool band, and I had never seen any of her gigs in full length. And this time they were playing blues. How could I have missed that? When this little chit of a woman starts singing, I am immediately transported to the 60s and in front of Janis; she sounds exactly like her.
And when varun came back from the reception he was supposed to attend, there were more rum and cokes to follow.

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During this whole time Varun and I had been discussing plans of directing a short film. There was a competition for a reality show for aspiring filmmakers. I had written a play titled ‘House at Wilhelm Street’ and he had penned a poem ‘Antonym’. I am sure this came out when he was high on acid. The two creations were fused and came a script that was mind boggling. We sent out the mailers looking for two trippy actors. CUT TO TODAY - What was initially planned to be a two-minute feature has now turned out to be a full-length short film. BACK TO THIS DAY – And then we decided on the shots, the set up and a rough idea for the screenplay. As sunlight faded away and so did my time in office, we landed up at his house. And the cycle repeated itself. A few rums, a few more thoughts and the ramblings continue…

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This Tuesday was different. We had planned not to go to Morrison but we still landed there. And since our dear friend was not at the console, we retired to varun’s house. His folks had gone for two weeks to Chitrakoot. He received a cute surprise gift as Rom an and Natasha entered with a sexy guitar for him as a birthday present. This night was some trip!
We are listening to Tool’s latest album, 10,000 days, drinking rum, whiskey and beer, looking at the album cover for hours and smoking pot like it is going to be out of fashion the next day.
Ok, this album has some great artwork conceived by Adam Jones, the band’s drummer, and has been crafted in 3-D. There is a pair of spectroscopic lenses that once are in right alignment with your eye take you into a world that is gothic, scary, trance, and I dont know what else. As you play the title song, the starting looks like it is set in some Transylvania kind of gothic place. And then the artwork of the flaming man, PHEW, I had to close my eyes for a moment, as I was unaware of my existence for few minutes. Well 4 pegs, 3 joints down, and with everyone around you stoned, there was this trance I was enjoying reminiscent of the bohemian days spent in Pushkar few years ago.
The fantastic part is the moment, my eyelids were down, and there were these pictures, laser images, smoke-generated effects taking various shapes that started haunting me. For precisely two minutes, there was a utopia embracing me and the soul was lofting around with no worldly disturbances. The whole thing was like being high on acid, big time.

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THE WEEK became a paradise where all that we did was watching movies right from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang to Bertolucci’s Dreamers. And Eva Green is oh so hot. In between we carried out auditions for our movie too. One Monday we were supposed to meet two actors and being the hippies we are, the night before was totally immersed in alcohol and pot. The Figella and Scorsassy, as we now call ourselves, were so zonged that we didn’t even know how to talk. Once the first guy went, and the pizza down our throat, it was time for these two to fall into the slumber. And we slept and slept and slept. Then more beer and rum, and of course our pot. Oh, in between we even saw Pink Panther.
The weekend saw us working on the screenplay like there was nothing more than this in the world. And what the hell did we come up with. The ten-minute film, to be shot without a narrative and dialogues could well be our ticket to fame. Or just another creative outlet that both of us have been longing for.
Till then, let us be the dreamers lost in the utopia!