Khara bun in Bush Country

Went to Dallas for a nostalgic week with Venky, Priya, Sanju and Rajeev. It was my maiden solo flight in the US, from Dulles Airport to Dallas Fort Worth . My alarm at being swallowed into the gargantuan oesophagus of the departure terminal at Dulles (Dullus, is how you say it, not Dulls I learnt) as P left me to my fate , was inversely proportional to the relief that washed over me on  sighting Venky in DALLus  (not Dullaas).

Because, at Dulles, I went down a deep escalator that looked long enough to connect  Mt.Everest with its base, walked through winding passages, went up a couple or three escalators, and took a little train ,  went down the escalator and finally reached the RIGHT Gate. No fear of getting on the wrong plane and going off  to Brisbane this time.

No such confounding exit awaited me at DFW.  I was out  in under 10 minutes, and was found by Venky and we got home to Plano in about 40 minutes.

Priya had a lunch that was redolent of Madras waiting,  which was eaten over IPL   followed by a bit of Sun TV. With Rohini’s famous cross-stitch of the bald eagle swooping magnificently across a backdrop of purple mountains and a couple of her other masterpieces hanging on the living room walls,  it felt more like Madras than Dallas.

The heavy Sunday lunch called for an afternoon spent lying prone like a python that had wolfed down an elephant ( haha– that’s the wildlife taken care of) which all of  us  proceeded to do, snuggling  with fleece blankets on the sofas (Venky and Priya) and on the lounger (me). Sanju and Rajeev disappeared into their own lairs.

In the evening we went to the mall.



Venky was being the indulgent Big Brother, asking me what I wanted, and telling Priya to get me this , that and the other, as we strolled through the mall,  looking for things to buy and then waiting for the feeling to go away, thus saving ourselves a lot of money.

We just looked in windows, and I tried to stare unobtrusively at guy who had gelled up his hair in punky pikes, remembering not to  say anything in any of the languages we knew, because in Texas, apart from Bush, you never know who speaks the same ones. And the consequences of such indiscretions cannot really be contemplated.

When we came to the pretzel shop, Venky asked if I’d like one. I knew of the pretzel, and the legend of George Bush choking on one, and the zillion jokes that grew around it, but  what with one thing and another, never really googled that one.

I was coming face to face with the presidential offender at last. Venky insisted I should try the jalopeno  pretzel. Of course, this wasn’t the one that  launched a zillion punchlines, but I prefer the pungent to the sweet, and soon I was salivating over a loop of what looked like ………

nothing I had seen before. I popped a bit in my mouth, and then my eyes popped out in surprise. Venky had become quite still, and was staring unblinkly at me……

“Hey……….this is like the khara bun– Hassan Bakery style!!”

Venky’s delighted crack of laughter said it all!  How many khara buns with bits of chillies, onion and coriander had we bitten into through countless summer holidays, and later when Venky stopped by on his way home to Madras from Hassan, where he was studying engineering!

Rainy afternoon with Enid Blytons (me , not Venky, who wasn’t the bookish sort in those days, though he has turned into one now, thanks to his job that takes him Up In the Air,  like George Clooney. I can see him looking at this menacingly!) and khara buns to munch on– it was bliss.

That March Sunday evening, it was uncanny… Venky and I  munching on khara bun in Bush country!! Who’d ever have thought it possible? !!

Pretzel BTW  is a type of European-descended baked goody made from dough in soft and hard varieties and savory or sweet flavors often in a unique knot-like shape. The archetypal pretzel shape is a distinctive symmetrical looped form, whereby the ends of a long strip of dough are intertwined, says Wikipedia.

Here’s the pic of a pretzel– not the jalopeno. Probably the kind that Bush choked on.



That’s:  I Watched My Name Is Khan In America.

Only it didn’t feel like I W MNIK I A.

Because things happened just the way they do back home.

The theatre was NOISY.  There were people speaking  Telugu, Hindi, Tamil,  may be Oriya.  Didn’t hear any Malayalam, or Kannada. The lobby was milling with people waiting to barge into the movie hall the moment it opened. We (P and I) waited until it wouldn’t look like we were part of the stampede, and for our  trouble, earned a couple of frowns from a lady in front of us, who thought her family and friends had brought up the rear, only to find us.

Inside, was India.  A few American-Americans stuck out like sore thumbs. Had no idea A-As swoon over SRK the way some of us go for Clooney or Brad Pitt!  Rows and rows of empty seats- a couple of them sporting a coat flung carelessly by its owner.Trying to settle into a nice-looking seat, all we heard was, “Excuse me those seats are taken.” The ENTIRE  row?” And the one in front as well, the solitary lady waiting for her gang to arrive, informed us crushingly.

We managed to settle down in the last row, against the wall, taking the last two  available seats.

There were a couple of seat guardians who were taking their job very seriously. The rules were being read. The kids had to occupy the last seats on either side, and NOT ALLOW other people. People who came together sat together. That is the code of the movie-goers.

Besides, as the lady said to no one in particular, “everyone is reserving seats for their near and dear ones, why pick on me?”  She also seemed a good hand at multi-tasking. Managing her brood, protecting the menfolk’s places, and keeping up a steady flow of gossip with the other lady, who didn’t seem to want any responsibility. And ordering young Durga to  redirect anyone who bounded towards the empty seats in their midst.

In the row in front of us, the arrangement was – a lady, two seats sharing a coat, a lady in a coat, two seats, followed by another lady. The lady in the middle seemed to be in charge. She spoke to her companions in what I suspect is Oriya,  and occasionally slipped into “American”  courtesy Rosetta Stone, and even threw in the English as she is spoke back home in India.

Every one grumbled, found other seats, and watched this sideshow while waiting for the movie to begin. Everyone who was not interested was now privy to the details of how the row (of seats) had been reserved and protected.  Those who knew Telugu could also have learnt the details of how the family of Durga , two rows away, had spent the day, and who ate what, and , how each of them had made it to the movie.

A conspiratorial silence fell when a lady marched up, a cop trailing behind her. She annnounced “reserving seats is not allowed”, and demanded to know if these two noisy rows had been “reserved”. This was stoutly denied by the Rosetta Stone lady, who casually picked up  her coat and bag from the seats next to her, and the other, argumentative one, who was very keen that her entire brood should sit in the same row, and was ordering the husband around to achieve this end.

The lady and the cop left. The coat and bag went right back on the seats, and the muted sounds of argument, seat reservation, keeping poachers off, started all over again. Everyone was an accomplice in this conspiracy of reservation. Those who found other seats, didn’t bother, and those who came in, and stumbled on it, quickly learned to not bother.

We wondered, “who could have complained? Could it have been the American Americans, who, not being Indians, are ignorant of appropriate behaviour when you bump into a bovine  jaywalker/ squatter-  which is to negotiate a quick u-turn and nudge your friend away , saying, “COW IS THERE, COME PA!”

Reservation (of seats in movie halls, buses, and trains and any other place where seats can be reserved  ) is a fundamental right of Indians every where. Handkerchieves are all the time flung into bus windows to reserve seats, and one  messes with a handkerchief waiting decorously to be reclaimed by its owner at his own peril.

And then the Indian Standard Time thin happened.  The theatre staff came in and announced the movie was going to be delayed by 5 minutes, and we would have to be patient. It wa actually 15 minutes, and the the folks for whom the seats had been reserved arrived at last, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. No one notice the movie hadn’t started yet.

Meanwhile,  the Rosetta Stone group let us know in  its newly acquired southern twang that two of the ladies had left their cellphones at home, and one of them had just got a good deal on a used (?) car for his dad. they were also going to have popcorn and “waaaaaader” to  wash it down.

That is why I didn’t feel  I W MNIK  I A at all.

At least, no cellphone beeped during the movie, no one textmessaged, or regaled the audience with family fables as Rizvan Khan winged his way to America to tell the President ” MNIK, and I M NAT” and educated us on Asperger’s Syndrome.


(That’s : The End)

Snowmageddon! Now

Since October 2 , 2009,  I have done many things for the first time. I used my passport for the purpose it is actually meant to be used.  I left India, and my home in Bangalore, and came to the US of A to join the husband.  As autumn gave way to winter  in the following weeks,  I clapped eyes on snow , for the first time in my life, one cold Saturday morning in December.

Would’ve missed it altogether if P hadn’t cut in on my call to the S-I-L ,  N who lives in the coolest part of Mumbai- the IIT Campus, with the Big Brother One and the little niece H.  N never stops talking, on the  phone especially if its your call, but more alarmingly,  is an incurable shutterbug of whom one can only ask, “What makes her CLICK?” .  She has been known to sneak  into the room, waddling like a duck-billed platypus,  trying to take a shot of you and the niece having a bedtime giggle, all because she doesn’t want to lose the “spontaneity of the moment”.

So when it came to the question of cutting the call and taking pictures of MY VIRGIN (IA) Snow which would be emailed and shared with her forthwith, she hung up. Forthwith. Another first for me, wielding the camera – ever since I’ve declared myself non-photogenic, I’ve longed for cameras became extinct. In my photogenic days, I had no camera, and it took a really long time before you got your copy. and by then you had degenerated further, and the picture was a RELIC and proof of your faded good looks, to be cherished as a bookmark in the ” reading now” book because you don’t want it to become dog-eared. Book and bookmark then get consigned to the upper shelves where it remains until little H grows up and is introduced to the pleasures of reading, and stumbles on the RELIC.

This is how things start small and SNOWBALL into a controversy.

Back to the snow.

The bright autumn colors that had welcomed me to America, the pond outside our living room window where the ducks (Plain ducks, no d-b platypus)  waded about and sometimes disappeared ( flyin’ South for the winner?) had long since turned grey and  everything  had begun to look desolate. P had said it hadn’t  snowed much these past few years, and there may not be much to write home about this year , either.

I got a lot of pictures, and even managed a video film of 6 min of the snow , which  flickr-ed  to the family with undue haste, and which was watched by said family even before I could call and tell them to watch it all , on mute, because the camera  made such a din. When snow falls, it REALLY is Silent I quickly learnt, though the camera, obviously didn’t care.

There was another snow at Christmas, and New Year’s. But no one took the hint. Until last week, in FEBRUARY! There were snow-storm warnings,and, when P went out to stock up on the milk, water and groceries, he found everybody in Herndon  had the same idea.  It started snowing, silently, as usual, that Friday night, and it snowed all Saturday. We watched the pond turn icy, and the last of the 50-odd ducks leave reluctantly, in groups of  four or six or ten, like troops returning home from Iraq, and the cars in the parking lot turn into snowy shells of their steel and glass selves. Trees began to look like Swarovski crystal creations.We could no longer discern the pond , as the last duck took a few slippery steps and flew away.

Over the weekend we were snug in our warm apartment, reading, net-ting and watching TV, and chatting online (not to each other,, though  the idea does have possibilities) but to friends who hadn’t yet disappeared into la-la land back in B’lore)

By Monday, we’d had 32 inches of snow. No one wanted to even think of going out. I hated winter, at least the American one, and wanted nothing more to do with snow. The drone of planes taking off and landing at Dulles Airport , which is out backyard, was missing, for a change, but it wasn’t easy any longer to pretend there was no snow. The silence was deafening.

When another blizzard hit Tuesday, Obama , a year older as President, and wiser about snow, called it Snowmageddon.

Last year, snow in DC and how its denizens dealt with it had amused  President Obama. and his daughters. His daughters’ snow day Wednesday, which meant they stayed home as it was too snowy to go to school for most of their mates,  made him “want to see a little bit of flinty Chicago toughness. The girls’ school was canceled . Because of what? Some ice?  he’d  told reporters.

This year,  it took 32 inches of snow, and his having to work through teleconferencing and phone and e-mail and notes sent by his staff for a couple of days, although he did make it to a Democratic National Committee meeting to give them a pep talk on healthcare for him to call it Snowmageddon.

The Winter Olympics have started in Vancouver. Ahead of it, people were worried there was not enough snow to go round!

Snowmageddon, also  SnOMG!  Snowpocalypse and SnObama to some,  is  a lesson. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.

I am happy.

I got my first snow.

Now there is one more thing I have to do for the first time. I have to learn to drive. P suspects I’m avoiding it. He’s right.

PS:- I hope the PS I live with doesn’t read this one.

Who stole my Nephelococcygia days?

ITs a Big Day today.  The might of the Indian Armed Forces- Army, Navy and Air Force will be on display. We shall know once again ,  how safe are our skies. and who keeps them so. There will be Saare Jahan  SE Achcha……. Ye Mere Watan Ke Logon………. and the National Anthem . There will be a billion lumpy throats and two billion misty eyes, most of them glued to the telly,  as Doordarshan belts out its staid commentary on the wonders  wrought by our rockets,  missiles, fighter jets, missile- launchers, and  finale of the tri-colour clouds that trail  artistic strokes in the skyline with great flourish as fighter jets fly past in salute to  the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. This being the first Republic Day I am going senti over  away from the Motherland, I am not sure the voice-overs are by Komal G.B.Singh, Rini Simon, and/or Suneet Tandon.

This awesome show is interspersed with vignettes of  what ordinary Indians do under the safe sky of the Republic of India,  during the rest of the year- they dance the Bhangra, swing a lavani,  beat the dollu,  they celebrate Hampi, Konarak and Taj Mahal. They  show of their wildlife, the folk culture and celebrate the glory of unity in diversity that is India.

Everything though, is  very reassuring. Even when the bravehearts of our Armed Forces are posthumously decorated, and we are  briefly misty-eyed and grieve with the families of the martyrs, knowing they’ve passed into the realm of legend. Perhaps the Why? What for? quotient of these sacrifices will never be settled one way or other until war goes away altogether.

We are 60 now.  And each of these 60 years,  We The People Of India, have  remembered on this day the Preamble to Our Constitution, and believed that as soldiers protect our borders with their lives, because they CHOSE TO,  those who were CHOSEN by us to secure for us the Justice, Liberty Equality and Fraternity have done so, and continue to do so.

As in :

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity of the Nation;



I wonder………..

What Republic Day and this Preamble to The Constitution means to some people, and Why:

Raj Thackeray who wants everybody to go home except Marathi Manoos.

The BJP Government In Karnataka that wants to reward law-breakers and punish law-abiding citizens with its Akrama-Sakrama scheme.

Karunanidhi who was more worried about the fate of Tamils across the sea in anotehr country, than the ones under his nose who “CHOSE”  him to be their Chief Minister.

The parent-body of a Leftist youth wing in Kerala which appropirated to itself the powers to moral/culture police a pair of adult (one male and one female of the species) in private terrain, and threatened a prominent citizen with dire consequences for protesting.

I also wonder……….

Who  stole my NEPHELOCOCCYGIA days?

Cloud-watching.  I don’t remember ever voting to lose my nephelococcygia rights. Lying on the grass ,  in our own garden, staring up at the azure sky puncuated with mountainous quantities of  cotton fluff that moved and changed shapes.  A world where cauliflower met cow, and cotton fluff turned into mashed potatoes, a dragon swooped breathing fire out of  the castle as  pigs morphed into Noddy’s car and Big Ears  floated past nodding sagely, or the Beast turned REALLY LIVID and went quite grey with suppressed rage, when suddenly a halo of sun rays backlit a wicked witch poised on a rhinoceros…………. No one saw the same thing. My rhino was ridiculous to your dolphin, and angels don’t do obvious no-brainer things like hide among the clouds.

Cloud watching  always happened unplanned. It didn’t happen often. It rarely happens now, and there are  plenty of parents out there who have not  introduced  children to the joys of  nephelococcygia. There is no time, and besides which kid believes there’s a Universe out there, beyond the iPhone?

But the awful truth that struck home on Republic Day is that the people We Chose have stolen our cloud-watching rights. I can no longer look out of my window to watch the sky and the clouds.  My neighbour just traded his (and mine) right to my bit of the sky by allowing the BBMP to eat into his (and mine) plot of land ( ostensibly so we could have a wider road) and let him build a couple of storeys that ate my bit of sky, and forever darkened the view from  window. No one asked me.

A mother-and-child , or buddies can no longer stroll down the MG Road Promenade, or even the footpath hoping to catch a bit of the sun and sky and clouds because soon all we’ll see is the underbelly of NAmma Metro as it hurtles across what once used to be a face of Bangalore.

I still wonder………………….

What is the point of  our soldiers dying, and keeping our skies safe.  If we can’t catch a glimpse of our  imaginary worlds forming and changing on the BIG BLUE SCREEN without any interference?


India is my country and all Indians are my brothers and sisters

India is my country and all Indians are my brothers and sisters.

I love my country and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage

I shall strive to be worthy of it

I shall give my parents, teachers and all elders, respect, and treat everyone with courtesy

To my country and my people, I pledge my devotion

In their wellbeing and prosperity alone, lies my happiness.


Swami Vivekanada  gave us this gem. But does it mean anything to some of those honorables mentioned above?

The Butterfly Effect of Bawdy Language

It is the lull after the storm. Having rained profanity on camera,  the Ex-PM has speedily put it all behind him, said sorry, and moved on.  From bawdy language to blustering apology to laughing his way out, it was a breeze for the Ex-PM.

For the hacks, it is dead news, probably to be dusted and brought down from the attic at the end of the year,  to figure in  the list of  2010’s WORST, or BEST,  MEMORABLE, OR FORGETTABLE….. Its use-by date just fluttered by, but not before many went back to their rookie days, and wrote columns or blogs revisiting the Deve Gowda of their wet-behind-the-ears days. After falling out with Hegde, he was the same rustic, earthy politician wallowing in the glory of his days as a minister, given to mouthing the same profanity at press conferences in his trademark droll, mumblesome manner.

Only, that was also the time when pretty young things  strayed into journalism, (it wasn’t  politically incorrect to call them PYT in those years, and press conferences were not the melee’ that it has become today,  and everyone knew which reporter was coming from which paper, and it was all bonhomie and family-like, and print journalists didn’t have to end up staring at  the backsides of camera crew, wondering if  they were at the right PC. Of course, now print journalism is much more easier- lift irrigation from Sanjevani, and watching the Kannada 24/7 news channels and some creative writing can result in a reasonably good report that will cheat the Editor for some time )  and inevitably, started to cover his press conferences which meant he had to mind his language, and bite his tongue sheepishly very often, until he learnt to be more kosher,  and took to administering a paternal gaze at the PYTs who became regulars. It was “brother…..” for the guys and ”  adu sistaire……..” for the girls.

Hegde   was a charmer, and many journalists (male and female) clamoured to  attend his press conferences even if  it meant poaching on a colleague’s beat, for the sheer delight of watching him focus the famous glad eye on the best looking (female) reporter in the hall, as he adroitly fielded questions from another corner.  The “object” of Hegde’s attention always had to suffer a great deal of teasing, while everyone trundled out with the story of the day, usually ruing that the “real” copy was  just an occupational hazard, never to be printed, unless someone thought to write their memoirs.

Not that Deve Gowda’s  press meets were all dull . You could’nt nod off, or  play tick-tack-toe with your neighbour, or look out the window wondering when the glucose biscuit, 4 fried cashew nuts and the coffee would come, for fear of missing the news in the monotone.

It was all kosher, however. Which is more than can be said for  the toxic language that is now enshrined in the air-waves for eternity.

And there is the BUTTERFLY EFFECT.

The Butterfly Effect was an idea that MIT meteorologist Edward Lorenz came up with, to illustrate the concept that small events CAN have  consequences of great magnitude– a devastating storm might have its roots in  the flapping of a tiny butterfly in another continent half-way across the world.

In his June 8,2008  article in The Boston Globe, Peter Dizikes, writes,  “translated into mass culture, the butterfly effect has become a metaphor for the existence of seemingly insignificant moments that alter history and shape destinies. Typically unrecognized at first, they create threads of cause and effect that appear obvious in retrospect, changing the course of a human life or rippling through the global economy.”

The article also talks of how “THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT” leapt out of Lorenz’s lab to become a catch-phrase and even a title of a movie. In its avatar as a catch-phrase, according to Dizikes, its meaning has become much distorted from the original. The larger meaning of the butterfly effect is not that we can readily track such connections, but that we CAN’T.  To claim a butterfly’s wings can cause a storm, after all, is to raise the question: How can we definitively say what caused any storm, if it could be something as slight as a butterfly? Lorenz’s work gives us a fresh way to think about cause and effect, but does not offer easy answers.

But the popular meaning of the catch-phrase suits us just now.

This  post itself is a consequence of the “BUTTERFLY EFFECT” of  Gowda’s foul language.  As are dozens of others, and the editorials, and the Letters To The Editor in scores of newspapers and magazines.

While on the topic, most people , you’d expect, would focus on the man and his bawdy language . But the Butterfly Effect comes into play willy nilly, and someone objects to Deve Gowda being called Animated Ragi Mudde. It is not clear whether offense has been taken on behalf of the ragi mudde, or the man who globalised  it. Though it’s obvious  the offense-taker could use a funny bone.

Millions of Indians must be wanting to learn Kannada now,  especially the toxic words, and a smart publisher could make a killing.  Mind Your Language may not have to resort to it, but naughty words are great ice-breakers.

Deve Gowda’s rivals, in particular the target of his invectives, must be animatedly exploring possibilities of exploiting the “flutter” that Gowda created, before he claims copyright and proprietary rights over the video clip . As a consequence of such exploration by said rivals,  Gowda may not have to beg that the offending video be removed, since the   target of his invectives will do it himself., for fear that Gowda turn the whole episode round to his advantage entirely, using any means.

So we come to  Lorenz’s question in his 1972 paper “Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?” He was talking about climate and weather forecasting, and demonstrating that the “innumerable interconnections of nature  exist between a butterfly’s  flapping of the wings and a tornado.

Just like Deve Gowda’s  Bawdy Language and  the offense quotient of Animated Ragi Mudde.

Five Pointless Someone!

Poor Chetan Bhagat.

Books get made into movies all the time . One famous book-as-movie celebrated its 70th anniversary a few weeks back. And no one even imagines  Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind without  Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler departing with  his devastating “frankly my dear , I don’t  give a damn.” Nor can Scarlett O”Hara’ s vixen-face belong to anyone but Vivien Leigh.

But mostly, Margaret Mitchell didn’t have to be worried sick about rolling credits,or calculate the percentage of adaptation from book to movie.   Authors like to be given due credit, as did Chetan Bhagat for “3 Idiots”, and  in most cases, they do get what they want. Even if you are not  J.K.Rowling, or Stephanie Meyer,  but just Chetan Bhagat,  producers are not going to forget to put “based on” or ” adapted from”, right up in the main titles, in the BEGINNING of the  movie,  when everyone  is glued  to their seats, as a opposed to rolling credits when folks are scrambling to be the first at the parking lot, and couldn’t care if  the writer got his due or not.

Even if they rewrote the script a dozen times, and the movie doesn’t resemble the book one whit, the author got his credits. Like Peter Benchley, whose 1974 book Jaws became Spielberg’s blockbuster movie, bearing no resemblence (as Benchley complained to Spielberg, who didn’t really care) – Jaws is now regarded as a watershed film in motion picture history, the father of the summer blockbuster movie. And it is the first movie to have grossed $100 million for its producers. It is always mentioned in the list of 100 Greatest Films Ever Made.

But it still is Peter Benchley’s story. Right from the opening credits.

Another movie, another book. Just a year ago. Slumdog Millionaire. The book was a good read,  a page-turner that I started reading on the ride home from Blossom’s on Church Street, and finished two hours later at home. The movie, alas, wasn’t the book. I liked the book better (I always do. Like the goat  in Jokes for All Occasions- that has just feasted on a roll of   negatives of Gone With The Wind,  someone actually threw in the garbage dump, and says on a burp,  “I like the book better”).

If I were Vikas Swarup, I would rather have seen more of  Q&A in  the movie than Slumdog Millionaire featured before meandering away from the storyline. But it was the year of  The White Tiger at the Booker’s and India-as-muck was the flavour of the season, and movies do exaggerate, and you don’t really have to like all the movies that come back with the Oscars. So Vikas Swarup had a great time at Oscar’s, he got his credits, and  Q&A is now called Slumdog Millionaire.

Of course, Slumdog Millionare wasn’t really an Indian movie. I mean, it was about Indian, but it rode to the Oscar’s on English shoulders, and the non-Oscar A.R.Rehman is far more admirable ouvre than what he gave us in Slumdog., I thought. Mind you he is the best, after Ilayaraja,  who is a legend, though without an Oscar. Yet. And we are proud of all the Oscars that Rehman and  Resul Pookutty brought back home.

Many years ago another Oscar did come to India.  Another “Indian movie”   Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi took eight Oscars in 1982, and a solitary one came to the very Indian Bhanu Atthaya for costume-designing.

Can Chetan Bhagat with his average novel,  with very “ordinary Indians as readers”,  dream of  sweet revenge? Or is it too late to connect the dots differently?

I did buy Five Point Someone at Blossom’s on Church Street, but I regret to report I didn’t finish it. It was a page-turner, of a different kind- I skipped pages, and don’t really remember how the book ended. I’ve yet  to watch 3 Idiots, but  I don’t have to watch it to know its a shame he didn’t get his opening credits. But this time, I don’t think I’m going to say I like the book better.

In 2011, 3 Idiots is going to bid for Oscars. I  think I have a “I-told-you-so” moment to look forward to on this one. Will it be third-time lucky for producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who went a-wooing the Oscars with Parinda and more recently, Ekalavya?

Somehow, I  don’t think so, though I’d like NOT to have an “I-told-you-so” moment on this one.  Slumdog and Gandhi were not  India’s entries. At least Mother India, our first foray into Oscars, in 1957, actually made the list. And until Lagaan (2001)  there were no nomination. Neither has there been any since.  Oscars, is not really the goal of Indian cinema. It could be that aspiring to Oscars means some good, memorable cinema comes our way. Taare Zameen Par didn’t make it, but it’s still a good movie, but any guesses on why it didn’t make it?  More Hollywood movies of  TZP’s genre have been flung out on its ears by Oscars’ selectors than anyone cares to remember. And it can’t have been because the translators were dyslexic.  Devdas was opulent, and we love watching it over and over,  mostly for Madhuri Dixit’s   “Maar Dala”.

Ekalavya? It probably got in because  like the original Ekalavya,  someone couldn’t do a thumbs-down on it.

3 Idiots at Oscars seems doable. However. Should Vidhu Vinod Chopra worry about  rolling credits?  May be not. Oscars doesn’t do sympathetic selections, which is  generally the preferred  method of selection in India.

Moral: The books-to-movies story in India will never be the same again. There may not be an “official book-to-movie” story anymore.  Producers may just not think of talking to authors who expect credit where it is due, and simple help themselves to the book.

Trend: People may linger to watch the rolling credits from now on.  Or the question may not arise if the moral of the story  is upheld.

For Chetan Bhagat:  It’s too late, though, to join the party, and   reprint another lot of Five Point Someone as “3 Idiots”, taking a leaf out of Vikas Swarup’s book.

Fastforward NEWStalgia

A rain-kissed morning.  As the sun winked over the shoulders of speeding clouds., school  was inescapable and life, therefore,  intolerable  Sailing down Seventh Cross came  “five-star”  tarkari guy on his bicycle,  his lusty hawking of “carrot! beans! alugadde, cabbage , seemay badnekai…………..! announcing the arrival of the only vegetable-shop-on-wheels  who ever came to the street.

Mother always acknowledged this “costly”  vegetable vendor’s arrival with mixed feelings. He charged way too much, and wasn’t past playing tricks with the weighing too. But who wanted to trudge to the Jayanagar Complex, only to argue with  a dozen of his kind  who terrorize ?  Just as well  be fleeced in the comfort of one’s home.

By this time,  a few  Seventh Cross maamis ,  thoughts very similar to mother’s jostling in their minds  (  mobile eyebrows that looked like a pair of tiny  snakes  dancing  off into the vermilion sunset,   can be revealing ) would emerge from their front doors, demanding to be told what outrageous price the fellow was naming for the luscious tomatoes and brinjals.

The tarkari guy, apparently preoccupied with    arranging the already perfect pyramids of  vegetables in his  much-used cane basket,  would then begin his little performance, calling out,  ” Come and get it!  Veggies that  Rajkumar- Bharati eat!    Worth every paisa. Momentarily diverting the women from such mundane matters as vegetable prices

This was the guy Rajkumar-Bharati  bought veggies from ! That was the secret of their success?!

No sooner than the little performance ended, even though there was no ting-tong that comes at end of  Binaca toothpaste ad on Vividhbharathi, the  eyebrows arched in  surprise and amusement would curl back  into  disapproving frowns, and someone would imperiously tell the guy to get on with business.

Little boys and girls who imagined this to be the best time to wangle a day at home  from impervious  moms,  by tugging at their pallus, ( thus proving  multi-tasking is an embedded feature in moms), a maama whose wife  was away at her parents’ to come back with a little bundle of  joy anytime soon,  the retired grandfather out for his morning walk,  often figured in this picture of  old Bangalore idyll.

Realising soon enough that he was not getting too far in trying to win friends and influence people,  when one of the maamis   acidly queried,”why bother to come here?  Rajkumar-Bharati didn’t buy your veggies today? Are these leftovers? “,  he would pretend that the ladies were driving a hard bargain, and bring the transaction to a mutually satisfactory conclusion.

Rajkumar-Bharati  sold vegetables to Seventh Cross maamis for several months, when suddenly,  Bharathi married Vishnuvardhan, who must  have disapproved of his new’s wife’s moonlighting  job. Anyway, the cycling vegetable-man came calling less often before disappearing altogether . Other non-cycling vendors gave the maamis multiple choices and competitive prices, and  the careers of Rajkumar and Vishnuvardhan the rising star were  tracked through more dependable, and literate sources.

The theatres near our home were Nanda and Shanti (Poonam and the Jayangar Complex were still shaping up in blueprint). We watched a few of their movies. Bhakta Kumbara, Kalla-Kulla, Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu. Vishnu and Dwarakeesh clowning around in Kalla-Kulla wasn’t really a great movie, but we had great fun at the time. Mother was teased endless with the song, “Amma endare yeno harushavu……”  which my brothers ( Subri-Bunty,  counted among notable spoof musical directors working in pairs ) rewrote as “Amma endare………yeno thondare!

Nanda and Shanti have been bulldozed off  Bangalore’s map. The dependable and familiar have fallen to the tyranny of change.  We used to cross the road from Usha Periamma’s to catch the night-show at Shanti, but now there is a median,  between the new building where Shanti once stood, and shell of the house where Usha Periamma lived. There are traffic jams, schools and colleges, and giant monuments to Bangalore’s new identity as IT city.  It can even turn into a tinder box that can spark a violent riot.

A bar-  restaurant owner decided to name his brand new venture on South End Road “Kargil”.  Someone didn’t like the idea, and flung one stone and there was a merry riot, and one’s man’s dream lay vandalised in a matter   of a few hours. Its another story that Kargil Bar and Restaurant still stands today ( at least, it did, three months back),  though folks who don’t know about it might miss it altogether. Like Platform Nine and Three Quarters, only those who need it can spot it.

Still, there is a lot to be said for Change. It is diverting for little old ladies (mothers, aunts, Ms-i-L,  grandmoms and their friends excluded, so as not offend them) to have Cable TV, absorbed in the fortunes of  the families that inhabit SoapTown. Keeps them from getting into a tizzy over the real people they live with. are very happening these days, and Facebook might soon have to  add some sepia-tinted features.  Harini and Paati are now friends; Sweetex wants to adopt a Grandma. Help Sweetex by donating a Grandma. Sponsor Grandpa’s visit to his lonesome pal in The Old Age Home. The possibilities for Facebook tripling its membership are immense.

The in-between generation’s dilemma will now be: Should I buy my F-I-L  a laptop, or should we go for the third TV?  You could arrive home to anything from a grand fight between the elder and the younger (generations) over  laptops and  playstations.  Once they could have just stepped out into the park for a stroll, and to play, respectively. But today, trying to cross the road in imitation of the chicken  can prove hazardous. Either way, there is every chance that the TV is all yours, if you care to be blown away with blow-by-blow account of some sleazy crime, or worse, minute details of political high drama that ends in a damp squib because the rebels didn’t get  their wish,  or you have a taste for bizzare soaps  in which dead people whose antim sanskar has been performed in a dedicated episode,  return with new faces and fortunes, twisting the story until it is grotesque enough to traumatise you, and you need to go into rehab.

Work from home, and you could have the best of everything-  just buy diapers of both kinds,  and that’s  the senior and junior citizens taken care of.   No pollution, no road rage, no fuming over protest marches that interfere with your plans, and best of all no deadlines to kill you.

Of course, it is  tragic that the kids are never going to have our kind of “Those were the days.”


To remember the little uncertainties and unsettling happenings in the age of innocence.  Father’s  little joke that helped to remember the theatres that  we passed while going from Banashankari to Malleswaram in the BTS Route No. 14 (yup ,the same one which had Rajnikanth as conductor) is irrelevant now.  But we can still laugh remembering it, though I must tell you we had no one to visit in Malleswaram , but merely loved riding from terminus to terminus. It was the longest known bus route in Bangalore then, To get back to Father’s  joke, as the conductor( may be it was Rajnikanth in his Shivaji Rao Gaekwad avatar, or may be it wasn’t)  called out “tickets?! tickets?! , one lady  said “Nanda” and got her ticket. Another took one for Shanti, and a third wanted to get off at Uma. The fourth lade, held out the money,  announced, “Alamelu”!

Humour doesn’t do bus any more.  Bus is where an “argument”  between  two  commuters can morph into a fight.  And a rude word suddenly reminds the conductor-driver duo that they can simply  pull over, and launch a “snap strike”. It is the vehicle of choice for those who believe  setting them on fire can bring the Government to its knees,  or mourn the death of  a Rajkumar or Vishnuvardhan.  Ironical that a bus conductor in Bangalore went on to become a Superstar in a neighbouring State, and buses were vandalised because he said something that offended people here.

PS: I wonder if Rajnikanth  ever found out where Alamelu wanted to get off.


Dream the Change, or Change the Dream?

Barack Obama has just proved  that the Audacity of  Hope can win you the Nobel Peace Prize. Yes It Can. Many of us , including  Mayawati,  L.K.Advani, and the pantheon of Prime Ministerial aspirants of 2009 believed their dream of becoming Prime Minister was The  Change We Believe In. No one thought to revisit   Dreams from My Father Of  The Nation- Is Gandhiji  too old and dated?

At least, one of  the  aspirational PM pantheon has just taken his rightful place  in the Once Upon a Time……… to ponder, one hopes, on how he came to be shortchanged.  He had hoped, and wished, and prayed, and promised and believed. Why didn’t he get his Prize?

Changes are afoot everywhere, all the time. In Bangalore., a  news report says India’s IT hub is all set to reclaim its old glory as the Garden City. The BBMP , yup, the same one that believed it could do flyovers, underpasses, magic boxes, and solve the city’s mind-boggling traffic problems, has changed its dream-  turn lakes, parks and even walls into patches of green cover and art museums!

Change! Again, after all these years of changing into IT City from Garden City /Pensioner’s Paradise?

187 lakes!

In the best of times,  like  when the legendary administrator  N.Lakshman Rau guarded each of them jealously, and made plans to protect them for posterity- (another hopeful optimist who never got a Prize, nor,  his wish)  there were around 260 lakes.  Now Bangalore has expanded beyond imagination, though not beyond nightmares, and to count these 187, we probably have to include tanks in Chennapatna, Kolar, Hoskote, Hosur and Harohalli.Or simply believe the BBMP.

How things change. The BBMP has grand plans to convert these 187 lakes into patches of green foliage and rich blossoms, and recreational zones .  Bangaloreans just stepped out of their front door to run into their own private patch of green, and the walk form Banashankari Temple to Jayanagar Shopping Complex was a picnic .  Once change happens, just hop into the Metro at the place where the N.Lakshman Rau promenade once stretched out like a plump python under a greatgreen canopy and trundle across a concrete jungle (don’t look down, you may go dizzy with the sight of the  grotesque, gnarled remnants of a City (Once) Beautiful, and indulge in the dubious pleasures of  wannabe Disneyland at a place that ought to be left to the birds and fish, so they can do their bit to keep the ecological balance. Can you measure the carbon footprint of your brave attempt to commune with nature?

The Metro is already eating up a good bit of Lalbagh, and  people who want to walk there for free , who ought to walk there for free,  are regularly badgered and stressed out by suggestions that they ought to shell out a fee to enjoy Lalbagh, and stay fit and healthy in their chosen ways.

Is this  change we want to believe in?

Everybody knows that Bangalore’s green worries are like the curry leaves in the sambhaar to policymakers.It enhances the flavour of the sambhar, , but no one actually eats it.  Bangalore’s lakes are a tangled web of  encroachment,  litigation, neglect, and often the victim of some official’s – enthusiasm, if not caught in tug-of-war between various departments and authorities that claim to “own ” the lakes.

Is the BDA any different?  Three years back, the BDA remorselessly destroyed a precious piece of biodiversity because it fell in the way of a road they were building to connect two neighbourhoods off Magadi Road and Mysore Road. The land was taken over by the  BDA, but it housed  a 100 species of bamboo from all over the world, a passionately tended project of retired forest officer A.C.Lakshmana, an internationally recognised scholar on the subject of bamboo.  After the deed was done, about 25 per cent of the bamboo grove was ravaged, at a time when Mr Lakshmana was away, the BDA’s laconic reply was, ” we had to do our job.”

And our job is not looking after trees, they didn’t add. We just take away the lung space near you, and expect you to battle traffic jams, pollution,  a protest march or two, diversion of traffic due to VIP movement,  and if you are still alive, walk around the park on the other side of town, where your alien-ness will stick out like a sore thumb.  No one told us “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” We made up one of our own. Its called, “If  it ain’t broke, break it and don’t fix it.”

Like goal posts in the new millennium,  Lakshmana Rekhas drawn in green can be  controlled, altered, deleted. Or in a single swoop, control+alt+delete(d).

The curry leaf just got flung out again.

In the new year, I shall not dream of change. I shall have a change of dream. Those who (mis)rule in Bangalore shall l not have a green epiphany.  For the more things stay the same, the more things change.