Monday, October 29, 2007


The tiniest little orange-and-black butterfly is fluttering around my plants since morning. It's the first time I've seen one on my 13th floor window sill. The sparrows come everyday. And the crows too. I like the crows. The pigeons are fewer now since we have the grills and the net window, though they continue to infect the plants, and sometimes me, in their disgusting way. I almost gave up my plants to them last year, discouraged by their persistent droppings. I didn't do my annual re-potting too this year. But now that I've seen the butterfly, I think it's time to bring out the flowers again.

Didn't capture the butterfly. Got the pigeon, though.

Monday, October 22, 2007

how old is she

I ask a villager, what is the name of your son. He says, Dilip. How old is he? Well, he is in the 6th, so 7 plus 6, 11, maybe 12. Ok. Then, second. Daughter. What's her name? Startled look, pause, think. Hmmm, Mayuri. How old is she? 8, I think. And the third one? Daughter, Soni. How old is she? She's in the 2nd, so 2 plus 6, 8. But then, what about the second. No, she is second. Soni, pipes in, I'm not your second, Baba, I'm the third, I'm the third. But I'm in the second. Right. A friend says, let me see, she's 8, so the second one must be 10, and your son, he must be 12. Yes, 12, 10. 8, that sounds about right. I say yes, that sounds fine to me. But haven't you registered them at birth? Oh yes, of course, I have. Then? The friend says, We only need the registry when we have to take their school admissions, then who looks at that paper. So we forget.

It's not difficult to forget how many years have passed in this dusty village. It once belonged to Raja Bhosale, but when the princely states were dissolved, and the farmers got the ownership of their land, his house was taken away in bits and pieces, a stone here, a stone there, now nothing remains except a 2-3 foot wall. Time has passed, the houses have become more and more decrepit, everything is falling apart, even the lives of the farmers, as they battle debt, the unpredictable monsoons, a complete lack of health care facilities, poisonous snakes, and a hard, very hard laborious life. The school is fine, surprisingly, the teachers come to work, but it's hard to say what good an education in a village school will do them, in terms of real jobs, and lifting them out of their crippling poverty.

The faces and bodies too are ageless, with malnutrition, hard labour and the scorching sun, and who can say whether a man is 28 or 35 or 40. They go on, until the body collapses, and even then, the old man or woman lying on the cot outside the door, is like a guard for the children and the house, while the parents go to work.

I know we work hard too, making television documentaries, in the sun all day, working 15 hours a day, often eating only two meals a day, sometimes one. But the difference is, we can drive away in our SUVs, to a clean hotel 3 hours away, a good meal in a good restaurant, to a hot water bath, and our work pays us enough to give our families a decent life. We are not insensitive, or unintelligent, or unconcerned. But it's difficult to believe that what we do, helps anyone but ourselves.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

and time runs still

Villagers are exasperating if you are talking numerical facts. What is your name, gives you an accurate if reluctant answer, the person shying away, specially if you have whipped out a pen and notebook, as if the act of recording his or her name itself, is likely to see them in trouble.

But try asking, what is your age? 30, 35, 40, 18, 25, all by the same person, in a span of a few minutes.

What time is the puja? 7 pm, 11 am, 5 pm, 3 pm, 8.30 am, that was 5 different people with 5 different anwers at the same time, in the same room.

When is the feast? They are cooking for it now, today, now, it's happening, it's on Monday, it's tomorrow, it was yesterday. Again, 4 different people, same place, same time.

When will the electricity come back? In half-an-hour, after two days, at 10 am tomorrow morning, at 2.30 pm this afternoon, maybe never. You can't get irritated with them about this, though, because they really don't know themselves. Their power supply is apparently in the hands of an electrician, who turns the switch on or off, as he pleases. Sometimes, he goes home for lunch and an afternoon siesta, and takes the weekend off, forgetting that he has to go back and push the switch.

The farmers threaten to go and beat him up after the festival is over. Which festival is not clear, the one tomorrow, or the one week after, or the one in the next month, or the next year, or the one that was meant to be last month, but is being celebrated now, because the police permission for the procession and immersion has come in only last week.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

high, hai

Ok, so Teja's chest pains were due to forcible breathing in and out, kapalbharti

I don't know enough about yoga to comment on this, but the cardiac surgeon said, kapalbharti was causing many incidents of muscular pain in the chest, which came through as cardiac scares.

Yoga should not really be done without a teacher, I think.

Isn't there enough bother in life, without bothering so much about the way we breathe too? What happened to 'as natural as breathing'.

Coincidentally, we were shooting with one of the top cardiac surgeons in Bangalore, and she said, the effect that deep breathing had was 'alcoholic' (Did she really say that, or was it another medical term? Do tell). It just made you feel high, and good for that moment, but your chest muscles are not meant for that much strain. So, of course you decide, what do you want, the muscular pain, or the brain high?

Well, Teja is going to give up that high, as well. Oh well.

Monday, October 15, 2007

and this too.....

There are times in your life when everything seems to unravel.

Your parent falls sick, you get mugged, your daughter has big-time teenage problems,

you lose your favourite earrings, your spouse complains of chest pains,

your parent has to be hospitalized, your brother is angry with you because you are not there to share the responsibility,

your parent develops complications, someone you care about lose their roadside garage and have to be relocated,

someone you care about needs help and money to keep a good cause going,

All this while you are shooting, travelling, taking care of other things, because that is your job.

The tongue in the cheek doesn't quite work then.

You just silently plod on.

And wonder what is in store for you next.

And hold yourself in.

And know that this too shall pass.

While you look at those million others scattered all over the country, who are worse off than you, and yet so generous and warm, and for whom the bad times may never pass.

And the tongue in the cheek doesn't quite work even then.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

of rickshaws and fate

There are two kinds of rickshaw-walas.

One is the slow rickshaw-wala. He goes through each pothole with love, letting his three wheels feel each and every bump with great delicacy, allowing you to savor every jolt of pain in the small of your back, and every rattle of your skeletal cage. He believes in the importance of the journey, and cares not about reaching. If you ask him to go faster, his eyes glaze over, his shoulders hunch fiercely over his handle bar, his knuckles jut out with grim determination, and his rickshaw makes loud noises, in an attempt to make you believe that he has speed-ed up.

When the hawker boy running beside you overtakes you, and you impatient say, 'Bhaiya, bhaiya, please hurry, I'm going to miss my plane/train/film/boyfriend', he does leap forward with uncharacteristic bravado, but at the first truck/bus/car/cycle that threatens to be left behind by his speed, he panics, brakes, your nose is into his back, which with anyone else, you would consider great intimacy, his rickshaw goes back to its soft rumble, and you make a call to your boss/mate/client/boyfriend to say you are going to be late.

Then, there is the fast rickshaw-wala. He hurtles across every fly-over, confident that he will land just between the bus and the truck, in the tiny space allocated to him by the god of moving things. He takes pride in overtaking the flashy cars, specially if they are being driven by women. He believes not in the journey, but in the ride. He doesn't care about whoever may be in the passenger seat, he is intent on watching how far he can go, how fast, without his rickshaw toppling over.

As your neck jerks from whiplash to whiplash, your hands go numb with clutching the seat, and the rest of your body has become a limp, raggedy doll, you ask him to slow down. At first, he pretends he has not heard you. When you hoarsely whisper again, 'Bhaiya, please, I don't want to die', he turns around without his rickshaw slowing down, looks at you contemptuously, slows down to an almost-halt, plods for a few meters, and as you just begin to straighten out the various parts of your body, comes the top of another fly-over, and there he goes flying again into space.

And you give up all pretense of being mistress of your own destiny, and pray silently for a mercifully swift end.

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