C’est la vie!

Since my last blog, I got married, became a father, changed my job twice and set foot on two different continents. The thought of reviving this blog had occurred to me more than once in between, though, willy-nilly, whenever I’ve mustered the resolve to sit down and write, I’ve ended up getting pulled into the world of instant gratification offered by YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp and the like.

Late last year while I was on the trail up the hill to Eze village, made famous by Nietzsche, lapping up the exquisite beauty of the Mediterranean, I knew I still had that thing for mountains. The month long sojourn to the French Riviera was in a way tantamount to paid vacation, what with all the weekend trips to the Cannes, Monaco, the Picasso museum, Nice city and the beach side accommodation in Juan-les-Pins. No wonder France has been the epitome of arts and culture in the modern world.

Talking about arts and culture, the role of movies in propagating this remarkable vocation of human society is unparalleled. A few days back, while engaged in a discussion about the impending Oscar night with friends, I had this fancy idea of making a list of my all-time favourite movies. The idea of making such a list was always fraught with danger, in that you’d almost always look back at it and wonder if the one that you pushed in was really worth it?! Or your childhood favourite which got the axe, partly because, well after all it’s just a childhood favourite; could have been a worthy addition. Anyways, that’s how it goes – C’est la vie!

So here it goes, in no particular order, the movies that made me laugh, whimper, reflect, imagine, cringe and whatever other adjectives one could think of. I lay no claim whatsoever to being even a half decent critique and as a consequence the list is more of a case of heart over mind.

 

Jurassic Park

The movie I have watched the most number of times without a shadow of doubt. This movie first appealed to my innate explorer nature and transcended the realms of thriller movies. For once cricket had to take a back seat at school as each and every scene was carefully analyzed and dissected in detail during those mini breaks. The music from John Williams elevated the already captivating visuals to stratospheric levels. This may not be the best movie Spielberg had ever made, nevertheless this would go down as the movie that made him famous all over the world.

Interstellar

Lot of articles have already been written about this magnum opus from Christopher Nolan that it would be sacrilegious from my part to try and describe the greatness of this movie. I particularly enjoyed this which came in The Guardian. With movies such as these where the audience could get mired in all the Physics and space theorems explained to them to keep them riveted, the highlight of this movie, as far as I’m concerned, is in how the director ties everything back to the love of a father for his kids. Well, roping in Hans Zimmer definitely helped in making some of the scenes in the movie vividly memorable, like for instance, the scene when Mathew McConaughey drives out of his home with a heavy heart and the one where his capsule enters the Black Hole.

 

Eternal sunshine of the spotless Mind

“Meet me in Montauk” – as Kate Winslet whispers this to Jim Carrey, you are overcome with a sense of melancholy and hope at the same time. The non-linear narrative, science fiction and romance make this a must watch for anyone who loves good cinema. Jim Carrey shows us a different and amazing side of his acting repertoire and Kate Winslet just makes this movie her own. The movie has quite a lot of aphorisms which forms an essential part of the narrative. The Phone call on the eve of Valentine’s day would make your heart melt!

 

The Big Lebowski

The cult classic that went on to spawn a religion! The sort of movie that grows on you; explains why it was not a box office success. ‘The dude’ connects with you on many fronts, not least, your laidback nature (well, at least mine) and the ‘take everything in your stride’ attitude to life. Don’t think any other movie could lay claim to the most number of profound one-liners as TBL can or maybe, you know, that’s just, like, my opinion, man!

 

The Shawshank redemption

The Shawshank redemption was a bit like TBL, in that, it did not meet with box office success when it was released initially. Based on crime thriller novel by Stephen King, the movie touches a lot of facets of human life. When Morgan Freeman narrates about the Pacific, you could sense the beauty of the Pacific-such is the passion in his voice. This is the most intense movie I’ve ever watched, emotionally drains you at times, ultimately feeling grateful to have watched such a movie. This movie is said to have positively influenced the lives of many a people in the U.S. with the message on how ‘Hope’ can trump all the difficulties in life.

 

Honourable mentions

It would be such a pity if I wrap this up without mentioning the names of other five movies that narrowly missed out.

They are Life is Beautiful, Dead poets’ society, Perfume, Schindler’s list and Godfather – I.

These five are by no means inferior to the five in the list, however, they had to be moved out for some reason or the other. C’est la vie!

Bangalored..

After 2 months of cooling off, it was time to go. And so by May 2011  I was back in that world  which I had left some 2 years ago – the world where  id cards are slung around your neck – which you swipe even to get into the loo, well almost , where you leave in the morning tired and come back more tired, where MS Office is your best pal with whom you spend most of your time, and one where you’re constantly under the scanner..

From the old world Lucknow to the brand new Bangalore, a microcosm of India.. Fair to say that the room I occupy in our rented home keeps reminding me of 1148 having got similar dimensions. Being “Banglored” means new friend circles, new habits, different way of life and last but not the least different outlook. 5 months into this new phase was enough for many firsts and seconds in my life like stepping into this unenviable duty of meeting prospective brides with whom you end up having pointless conversations only to to be told that there is an appaling lack of chemistry between the two( Never been a huge fan of Chemistry in my life). On the brighter side, made the first real trek of my life to ‘Thadiyandamol’ which was as thrilling as it was stupid and left me craving for more such expeditions. The hostel parties have been replaced by friday night ‘chillam’ gatherings, the only conspicuous absence being that of those mallu songs.

Not sure if I really relish Bangalore, but the place is keeping me entertained and my only hope is that I won’t end up being a typical Banglorean slide rule, because of all things i fear, being monotonous takes the cake..

RIP Steve Jobs

Fait accompli

Those afternoons of yore,

Some bright, some dark, all queer

Oh, those were innocent days,

of simple joys and fleeting pains!


The rumbling of the cloudy sky,

the dancing trees of a blustery day

Azure skies of outdoor fun,

those verdant fields and flowing streams..


I wish those days could come back once more

and take me back to my paradise lost

A little kid, all cares unknown

A whiny memory of  the soul.



In Rusty’s world

Feels like it’s been eons since I last put pen to paper, well metaphorically as these days everything gets dished up in electronic form only. Still feel rusty as the long layoff after convocation seems to have taken its toll on my industriousness!  Among other diversions, it’s the season of IPL and the organizers are busy thrusting rubbish down your throat. Having said that, I still seem to be enjoying the mindless fun. Old habits die hard :D.  Summer has reached its peak and the mango showers have really been a blessing. As a kid I used to curse these rains for spoiling my evening outdoor fun; how times have changed!

And then today suddenly I thought I’ll write, simply to get myself back in order or in Ruskin’s words to ‘get the juices flowing’.

Ever since I started reading Bond, I had longed to visit ‘Ruskin’s Dehra’. Meeting the writer himself and having a chit-chat though seemed wishful thinking. A hap hazard plan saw the quadruple took the night train from Lucknow, Doon Express, which pulled into Dehradun early morning. It looked rather deserted apart from a few coolies and dreary eyed travelers. If you’ve ever read Bond, you’d have a picture of Dehradun in your mind with the colonial buildings, pony driven carts and those way side plants which were described to the minutest details.  The present day Dehradun, I guess has played an important part in driving Ruskin to his abode in Mussoorie. It’s just like any other Indian city teeming with vehicles and people in their perennial rat race..

A bit of jostling made sure we got hold of the tatkal tickets to go back to Lucknow.  A rickety shack of a bus was boarded to Mussoorie without further ado.

Bang in the middle of off season; hotels never came cheaper in Mussoorie. The best way of getting around Mussoorie is to go for one of the many tourist packages put up at the taxi centre. Different permutations and combinations will help one to go for the best package with most places in it. The cab took us to Kempty falls, Surkhanda mandir, Budh mandir and a few other sites of tourist interest.

Surkanda Devi Mandir

But more than that I wanted to get a glimpse of Mussoorie’s most famous denizen and kept reminding the cab driver to make sure he took us to Rusty’s place. It was not to be though on day one as we rolled in pretty early after hitting the hotel.

Mussoorie gets really cold by November and you can really struggle with the tepid water offered early in the mornings. New day, new cab and seemingly better chance of meeting Mr.Bond as the cabbie promised to take us to his home by evening.

The place is the perfect hideaway if you want to be far from the madding crowd. Nestled in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas, it’s infested with pine trees which remind you of those postcards you used to love as a child.

Staring at the magnificent Nanga Parbat

The last stop as per the itinerary was Lal Tibba –  the highest point in Mussorrie where you get to truly admire the landscape with a mounted binocular perched around 2500 m above sea level. Rapidly fading light though, robbed us off the magnificent sight.

Mist slowly blanketing Mussoorie as seen from Lal Tibba

But there had to be one final visit before calling off our Mussorrie sojourn. Winding steps took us to the top of a 3 storeyed building which had an eerie feel to it. We could see carefully made patterns on the occasion of Diwali on the porch which had a swing hanging from the roof. A knock on the door met with moments of silence before a portly figure in red pullover started becoming visible through the glass. The door finally opened..

 Mr. Bond (B): slightly quizzed look on the face

Me (words not escaping my mouth): Sir, we’re coming from Lucknow

B: Not today, I’m a bit busy. Please do come some other time

Me (still in awe): Fine sir, thank you!

B: thank you

I was content. Even if we had bought a bit more time I don’t think I could have said something other than “Sir, I’m a great fan of yours…” or probably a clichéd “Sir, I really admire you”. It was the greatest one minute of my life.

That night we packed off to Dehra and got into a cozier hotel for twice as much. Last day of the trip had visits to NDA and Mindrolling Monastery. We had started our journey back by midnight as the train to Lucknow pulled away from ‘A town called Dehra’.

On the trail of history

“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Deep inside I’ve always wanted to be an explorer. Stories of Ruskin Bond and Kipling used to paint my imagination and in my childhood fantasies I’ve conquered great mountains, flew many a flight and spent nights camping in deep jungles. Even though those fantasies never took flight, I’ve had the good fortune of visiting a few places which have held me in awe with the sheer brilliance of their beauty.  For me these sojourns were journeys inwards when one snaps his ties with the mundane world briefly in pursuit of parallel worlds.

This blog is about my trip to Khajuraho with 5 of my fellow IIM inmates. The plan took shape during one of those weekend mini parties held religiously. We were ideally looking forward to a 2 day trip and Khajuraho seemed to fit the bill. The idea was welcomed unanimously and the following Saturday evening we were on our way. We were expecting to reach Khajuraho by midnight or thereabouts going by the distance indicated in Google maps. Both we and the Cab guzzled a lot to keep ourselves up and running respectively. I had comfortably ensconced myself in the front seat near the driver and was appointed as the DJ of the trip. We reached Kanpur by around 6 in the evening and traffic was moving at a trickle which is a common phenomenon in any Indian city during peak hours. There was a drizzle too in the air and some leering clouds could be seen in the horizon.

We pulled up around 10 in the night near a dhaba at Orai. It was here that it dawned upon us that we were still some 6, 7 hours away from the destination or the driver made us believe so. Our worries were compounded by the strict advice given by the people in the dhaba that travelling in the night further may not be such a nice idea. Initially we thought we’d push forward but then better sense prevailed and decided to stay put till morning. Luckily we had spotted a hotel nearby and from the looks of it seemed more than good enough for a night’s stay. The 3 star sign which welcomed us looked spurious and any false hopes soon vanished once we got into the room.

Morning had made us saner and we realized that we were literally taken for a ride. The driver apparently had no clue about the route and was in the process of circumscribing what would’ve been a straight line between Lucknow and Khajuraho. Our doubts were vindicated by the villagers as we pulled into Jhansi. The destination was still 5 hours away. The condition of roads was pathetic to say the least and by now we’re traversing the Indian heartland. People on their haunches by the road side going through basic morning routines were staring at us which made us feel like intruders. As the cab struggled its way through a poor distant relative of a road and no light at the end of the tunnel we even started contemplating a U-turn.

Khajuraho…., tucked away in a corner of Chhatarpur District of Madhya Pradesh is probably the only place on the face of earth where both the spiritual and carnal coexist. After checking into our hotel by around noon, we had a quick lunch before we set upon our sightseeing with a guide in tow. The monuments embellished by intricate carvings had stood the test of time and attacks by invaders for over 1000 years. Our first stop was the Vamana temple with the idol of fourth incarnation of Lord Vishnu inside. Before the sanctum sanctorum was a platform where ‘Apsaras’ used to perform for the royals seated on pedestals on both sides. The feeling of travelling back in time was inevitable. The guide was loquacious enough to keep us entertained as we stood there admiring the poetry in rocks.

 

The Vamana temple

 

 

Vamana idol

 

We further proceeded to ‘Javari temple’, ‘Chaturbhuja temple’, ‘Duladeo temple’ to mention a few and then to the Jain and Buddha group of temples. ‘Utkhanan temple’ which was found in a buried state was undergoing renovation. Our cab encroached upon the wicket of children playing cricket bang in front of the temple. I could easily empathise with them. The guide left us in front of the Western group of temples having extended his deal by one more day to take us to Panna tiger reserve and Pandav falls.

 

chaturbhuja idol of lord Vishnu

 

 

Utkhanan temple

 

The Western group of temples are so named as they face west. They are so made to let the Sun pay its last respects to the Gods before calling it a day. These temples were built by The Chandela Kings as their obeisance to the Almighty for victories achieved in wars. The architectural brilliance can’t be described in words and is a sight to behold. Briefly they were under threat of destruction by Mughal rulers but thankfully not much damage was done. Having said that a few defaced idols serve as stark reminders of what would have been. The experience was made all the more memorable by the ‘sound and light show’ in Big B’s baritone which explained all the temples and their significance vividly. As the day came to an end we retreated to our hotel rooms for much deserved sleep.

 

One of the Western group of temples

 

 

The sound and light show

 

As promised the guide was at the door steps the next morning to accompany us to the Panna Tiger reserve. Unfortunately the reserve was closed for the monsoon season and our visit was restricted to watching the Karnavati waterfall nearby. As expected our trail crossed with that of the monsoon which proved a blessing in disguise as the real grandeur of the waterfall became all the more evident. It turned out to be a passing shower and we were soon back in the cab. Next stop was the tree hut in the jungle which was a unique experience for all of us. It was overlooking the river Karnavati slowly meandering towards meeting Yamuna.

The last stop was ‘Pandav Falls’, so named because of the falls where the Pandavas along with Draupadi had supposedly taken bath during their ‘Van vaas’. It all seemed quite surreal with the presence of the temple  dedicated to them on top of the caves which apparently housed them.We were back in the hotel by noon after bidding goodbye to our guide. After lunch we got back into the cab as we prepared to leave. As we breezed past ‘The Temples’ one last time I made it a point to go back there once more.

 

Karnavati falls

 

 

On its path to meet Yamuna

 

 

Pandav Falls

 

The return journey was more coordinated as we had got a fair idea of the right route to Lucknow. The cab proceeded at a fair clip only briefly hampered by natural roadblocks of the bovine type. As we sat relaxed  the CD player was bleating out a song from ‘Rang De Basanti’–

“hone hone de nasha khone khone ko hai kya

ek saans mein pee ja zara zindagi chadha

hai yeh toh ek jashan tu thirakne de kadam

abhi saanson mein hai dam abhi chalne de sitam”

One got a feeling it couldn’t get more fitting than that.

A collapsed bridge ensured we travelled more than what was required and that too in pitch black with only the cab’s lights breaking the monotony. But 2 days had made blase travellers out of all of us to bother anymore. By midnight college was in sight again…

NB – The partners in crime were Deepu, Paulie, Emil, Philip and Sarin in no particular order.Together we made it memorable for ourselves. Looking forward to sharing such experiences with you guys again…

Bharat’s Ratna?!

Sure a treat for sore eyes.. but Bharat Ratna?!

Bharat ratna to SRT? Taking nothing away from him, I don’t really subscribe to this idea of conferring  the highest civilian honour on a sportsperson. I don’t have a problem in giving away Khel ratna over and over again to him, but let’s reserve the Bharat ratna to people who really make a difference in the society, like social reformers or scientists or those who fight for a greater cause. Now is that asking too much from people who give away the Padma awards to anyone and everyone at the drop of a hat ?!

The Rhapsody of Rain

Early morning sun, raring to go, had left me insomniac since the wee hours of a lazy Sunday morning. The whirring sound of cooler was hammering in my ears. After pulling the plug on that anachronism I let my body perform a  POST    (power on self test). Suppressed a sudden urge to plan for the mid terms round the corner as I let my mind wander from the spiritual to the insane. Poured some water into the kettle clumsily to get my early morning dose of black tea. It was drizzling outside ever so lightly….

Reverie – The rhapsody of rain is one of the most awesome spectacles in nature. When you are born in that part of the world where rain itself is born it’s but natural to be a romantic old-timer when one thinks about rain.

Hibiscus in rain (click to watch video)

The inundated paddy fields, the rivulets made almost feral by sudden bursts of deluge, the menacing sea and the various shaped potholes decorate the canvas that is Kerala during monsoon. It’s such a great time to take French leave and enjoy the slow pace of life admiring the rain as it takes you on an emotional roller coaster. By evening,as the now mellow sun tries hard to make its presence felt, the rain would have wreaked havoc all around. Fallen leaves and debris strewn all over the courtyard add to the pandemonium. But still you long for the rain to come back and weave its magic again…

Room number 1148, present continuous – kettle is boiling over. I run to prevent an explosion which is averted in the nick of time. Serving myself some tea I stare out of my balcony into the now dying drizzle. ‘The Cascades‘ are playing ‘Rhythm of the Rain‘  in my laptop as I try to shake off early morning blues. I am Jack’s broken heart…

..but lil does she know that when she left that day..(click to watch video)

Present Continuous