Monday, November 9, 2009


My friends tease me that if I am given a camera on a said day, I'll get captivated by shutter-bugging all the time and forget to spend time with them. The predicate of the sentence is utterly false. (Yeah, remember 1st Std English Grammar?) In fact, until the SLR was gifted to one of my friends on her b'day, everyone pretty much took it for granted that I would be taking pics at each and every outing.

Never mind that I choose not to focus on the fact that if a camera in any form is placed in front of me, I will happily pose for it. I choose to relate this to a healthy level of self-esteem; but this I will leave for another day.

Coming back to my love for photography - I never owned a camera until March 2007. The family owned an old outdated Nikon that was lost in my father's cupboard - a testimony to his general disinterested self in the last decade and half of his life. I remember him asking my uncle to buy it for him in the early 90s in the US and airship it with my grandparents on their way back from the US. I believe and hope my memory rightly prods me to say so that Appa spent a decently large sum on the camera. In fact, I remember the pride and content on his face when he first received it - probably among his favorite material possessions. I am personally fond of this camera now for a personal reason - that it adorns my laptop wallpaper; a picture of Appa taking a picture of someone with his camera.

Wow! I do get distracted very easily. But my point of this anecdote was that at some level, I was influenced by my dad's short-lived interest in photography. My first camera was a gift by mom's sister and her husband to me. My aunt definitely experienced relief that I had completed my MBBS and had finally hopefully rid myself of exams. I haven't really pursued photography as a skill, haven't learnt the art of still photography, haven't learnt about influence of lighting or any other nuances. I admire people who take an avid interest in developing this hobby and love to listen to their tidbits. Yet my love for photography is different.

I love taking pictures of people. Maybe it is because I am a people's person; but I reason it is more likely from years of time spent in the local trains in Mumbai silently observing people. As arduous, tiring and even nightmarish that local train travel can be, seasoned travelers will all subscribe to this shared cultivated passion for observing others during the long travel times. Calm, contented, happy, elated, uncontrollable-laughter-filled, retail-therapied, surprised, taken aback, anxious, worried, scared, hopeful, prayer-filled, angry, irritated, disgusted, foul-mouthed, peeved, miffed, discontented, tired, hungry, sleepy, sleeping, dozing, snoring, sleeping-with-mouth-open, sleeping-with-mouth-open-and-drooling, ogling-from-the-video-coach ... and expressionless faces... I would always think to myself about how amazing it would be to capture the entire range of emotions in one moment, in one picture. More ambitiously, I would imagine the cool idea of capturing the same face at different times - a feat possible as we were all 'regulars' who often bumped into each other and shared a quietly acknowledged bond. I missed the camera when my friends and I would jump in a puddle created by the rain. I missed the camera when a friend and I caught one of my studious (annoyingly boring) med-school classmates gorging on a watermelon on the road on one hot summer afternoon - and we couldn't figure out if those black spots were the seeds or flies. I missed my camera when that little 4 footer old man danced cutely with his iktara outside Parel station to the tunes of devotional abhangs.

I love capturing candid moments involving people. Sunsets and birds and mountains and valleys - I love to inhale them and keep them alive in my memory. But people, especially, in their unguarded moments are my passion. What is the use of having many pictures of the same person uncomfortably posing in their apparently most docile self for the camera? I want to capture the spirit of that person in the camera, as difficult as it may be. Everyone is beautiful and everyone makes the camera better - if they are allowed to do so by being themselves. While I do not approve of the candid camera violating boundaries of accepted noble behavior, I definitely heartily encourage the spirit of capturing my friends, relatives, loved ones and even strangers in the narrow aperture of that awesome device.

After all, it makes for great memories.

And my subjects usually love them too.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

TV journalism in India

A passing glance through Abinav's facebook (Abi- this is the second time I have referred to you in this week) linked me to a recent impassionate commentary of the apathy a.k.a. Mumbaikar. Thus, I stuck upon the perfect set up for my next postin.

While we haven't milked the indifferent Mumbai enough just yet, I choose not to focus on that issue today. Instead, what riled me up was the author of that article - Rajdeep Sardesai. Yes, it was a very well written piece about a situation I am loathe to have been a witness. There again, I am not talking about this particular article. Seeing his name associated with it sent me on a train of thoughts and memories chasing recent news and debate coverage on national television - and erupted the discomfiture.

The 90s cable t.v. revolution brought home a new member - the 24*7 news channel. With it, entered Prannoy Roy into my life. That suave, bearded handsome man captured my semantics-loving heart and I would watch him speak, sometimes without blinking an eyelid. But when I think about it, I realize that I was always struck by his calm unfazed demeanor that never once betrayed his position. He was there to report the news as it was, and that he did without slipping a personal emotion. He was to moderate a debate, and therefore, he never played judge. He never blatantly or subtly played favorites, however agonizingly wrong one side of the argument was. Hence, when it was time for Roy sahib to give roots to his sapling, everyone applauded bravo!

Roy brought in a host of fresh faces, enthusiastic workers with a range of baritones that chirped away updates on current affairs, sports, weather, entertainment and the like. Suddenly, there was a systematic improvement in presentation with attention given to even something as minute as the facade of the backstage drama. In a matter of months, hitherto unknown (but good looking) faces like Rajdeep Sardesai, Vikram Chandra, Sonia Razdan, Barkha Dutt, Srinivasan Jain, Vishnu Som, Arnab Goswami took turns at joining us at the dinner table and spurred hour long passionate debates across the familial table.

Sooner, they became celebrities in their own right. While I never had a concept of a weekend back then, Saturday 8:00 pm was about Rajdeep's "The Big Fight" and Sunday 8:00 pm was about Barkha's "We, the People". I think I speak for most of my peers when I say that these two reporters captured our imagination by their fiery brand of question and counter-question, impulsiveness, the ability to provoke politicians and then sheer eloquence. Barkha inspired girls to give a voice to their opinions, she inspired a movie character (speaks volumes of her personality in a cinema crazy country). Journalism gained a new-found respect in a new-found avatar and now seemed like a near-lucrative one too. Come elections, Mahesh Rangarajan and Dorab Sopariwala, two contrasting personalities, enamored the elite with their numbers and statistics. Roy took a backstage and allowed himself to play mentor to his proteges except for the election time coverage.

With fame, comes attraction of greater fame. Probably, more so, the attraction of a new challenge. And as the now-old timers moved to better prospects with news TV channels, the audience could salivate at the prospect of better news coverage. But it has turned out a huge mess. None of these journalists have retained their charm. The pressures of competition are seemingly wearing them off. Rajdeep and Barkha are now incapable of playing fair and square. Yes, communal riots get us all riled up, but face it, you have to play moderator and not judge on that dias. You can't invite people over and then give them a dressing down. Last I saw, Barkha spoke more on her show than the guests. And the 26/11 coverage was insufferable, to say the least. Vikram Chandra has managed to stave off some criticism, but it was quite long before we could accept his inheritance of "The Big Fight". Arnab Goswami, the less said about him the better, although I will comment that his handling of the 26/11 tragedy was by far the best and by far the most composed in the face of horror.

Journalism is a tough job. Yes, anyone can strum words and report. But it takes an astute person to separate the wheat from chaff. We need the Prannoys and the Vinod Duas of yesterday. I personally feel that these known faces need to understand that they carry the weight of intelligentsia and therefore, are responsible for a decorous conduct befitting their job. Keep the emotion aside and do your job well.


Friday, November 6, 2009


This is a continuation of a story I first wrote. I intend writing a long short-story. Hopefully, I will be able to develop further the core idea very soon.

Don't leave. Anjali's doe-like eyes pleaded. Flooded with tears that stoically refused to trickle, yet refusing to be placated. The soft rays of the setting sun entered between the bars of the window and cast a mushy glow on her that longed to be caressed and held in my hands.

I looked at my hands. Large, rough, hardened. My hands yearned for her soft palms, my fingers longed for her delicately shaped ones that playfully intertwined with mine. I looked at her, at the yellow chiffon dupatta curled around her neck and shoulders. How radiant she looked even in sadness! I stared at her for a while. What was it about her that pulled me away from my world into hers. Was it the curious mix of sheer brilliance of conviction admixed with the genteel charm she exuded? Was it the sharp contrast of her quiet disposition in the public against the opinionated and outspoke I knew when we were in each other's company. She always had and has this knowing look in her eyes, the quiet confidence that I quickly lost myself in. She would listen in wondrous innocence, like a child discovering the world; and then she could speak in a continuous gush of words as if there were no tomorrow.

What was it about her I wondered. I mulled. I hated confusion. I hated ambiguity. I hated this quagmire of not having my answers. And then again, I loved every second of this medusa.

to be contd.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Get Going

So, while I struggle to come up with half-a-decent idea for my thesis, I ran into this I-need-to-write-a-poem-to-vent-the-frustration mood that culminated into a fun piece... here it goes:

oh c'mon you ferret
sitting morose and upset
your mirror image disagrees
asks the dead mood to get upbeat

what the hell is wrong
you sing such a dull sad song
the madness is missing
monkeys won't swing along

sorry the hand won't move
the words don't any sense strew
but excuses gotta stop
the champion has to start anew

seeing my own words with pride
i smile and decide
if i can write so much
the thesis should be a jolly ride!

no more sap

Methinks me has to stop the sap. It's boring to look at the weepy stuff I put up here. So from now, I am going to do some serious diary-style mulling, and some serious story writing here. Need to hone the story telling skills. Is that the maternal instinct beckoning? Who knows!

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I haven't written in a while. I try to post something every month, I guess I missed Oct 09 by a day. It's ironical how my blog is full of poems, yet the blog identity suggests anything but a collection of poems! Abinav also pointed out recently that I haven't written in a while. So here I go again!

My life has been anything, but peaceful, in the last couple of years. I lost all father figures in my life in this span, all men in my life just disappeared. To be honest, it sent me reeling. I just don't know how I managed to breathe in the last year especially after my father passed away. But live I have! And my facebook pics are testimonial to my working-weekdays-partying-weekends lifestyle.

Yet, I find the greatest joy in a quiet moment of solitude, in contemplation. Not just introspection, as a matter of fact, I am wary of self-prosecution as I end up feeling cut up with myself. I think about the ways of the world, the times we live in, the events we are witness to. I often think about how difficult it must have been for the first generation Indians to come to this faraway land and alien culture that must have been so hostile to them in the beginning. Hostile climates, clementine interactions. A friend was talking about how her dad came to the US in 1970 from the then Bombay to Chicago in January. And everyone looked at him as though he got out of a UFO. They hadn't heard of a place called India. Strange? More terrifying, I would say.

My life is so simple. I chat with mom everyday, see her face everyday - though she lives oceans away. I can talk to her at any time. My sister is updated with the important events in my life. I haven't as yet held my lil nephew in my arms, yet I see grin and monkey around to catch him smiling on the webcam at least once a week! A long lost friend was rediscovered and I am in conversation with her everyday though she lives in NZ. I cook Indian food and my kitchen is stocked with exotic stuff ranging from kesar to kokum to tamarind to even goda and dabeli masala! All bought in the local Indian store.

Those first generation Indian immigrants were a courageous lot. Traveling miles from the familiarity, comfort and luxury of home to a place not-so-welcoming of them, that calls for courage of conviction. Yes, they sought a better life, but they had to sacrifice a lot to win their medals and build their homes. I can't imagine living in those times. I would run back home. I know I couldn't have survived.

I often chide my parents for belonging to a confused generation that was stuck between the traditions of the old, the liberterian younger generation and their own dreams. Yet, today, I stand to benefit from some of their sacrifices, their inventions, their discoveries. Quietly, they lay a solid foundation for us, the children of the 90s to erect our glorious edifices on. And to them, I credit my comfortable life of today.