Sunday, December 14, 2008

Songs of peace at a time of war

Over the last 2 weeks news channels have been playing 2 songs in particular during their 'Tribute to the fallen' shows (I refer to the Mumbai attacks here, of course).

The lyrics of the two, 'Ek lau' from the movie 'Aamir', a personal favourite, and 'Vaishnavo janato', are worth remembering.

Ek Lau

(Song is written by Amit Trivedi, from the soundtrack of Aamir, performed by Shilpa Rao)

Ek Lau Is Tarah Kyun Bhuji Mere Maula…

(Why was a flare extinguished like this, my Lord…)

Gardishon Mein Rehti, Behti Guzarthi,

Zindagi Aahein Kitni…

(Struggling through dark clouds, flowing, passing by,

There are so many lives [being lived]…)

In Mein Se Ek Hai, Teri Meri Agni,

Koi Ek Jaisi Apni…

(Your life and my life is just one flame amongst all of these)

Par Khuda Khair Kar, Aisa Anjaam Kisi Rooh Ko,

Na De Kabhi Yahaan…

Guncha Muskuratha Ek Waqt Se Pehle,

Kyun Chodd Chala Tera Yeh Jahaan…

(But God please, may no soul here receive, this kind of ending…

Before the arrival of a flower-like*, smiling [peaceful] time,

why did this life leave your world…)

{*writer refers to the gradual, sweet smelling natural death of a flower}

Ek Lau Is Tarah Kyun Bhuji Mere Maula,

Ek Lau Zindagi Ki Maula.

(Why was a flare extinguished like this, my Lord,

A flare of Life, my Lord)

Dhoop Ke Ujaale Se, Aus Ke Pyaale Se,

Khushiyan Mile Humko…

Zyada Manga Hai Kahaan, Sarhadein Na Ho Jahaan,

Duniya Mile Humko…

(The light of the sunshine, the beauty of the morning dew,

We recieve joy from all of this…

Is it too much that we ask for a world with no borders*)

{*As in, borders/divisions between people, ethnicities, religions…symbolizing all artificially created conflict amongst humanity}

Par Khuda Khair Kar, Uske Armaan Mein Kyun

Bewaja Ho Koi Qurbaan,

Guncha Muskuratha Ek Waqt Se Pehle,

Kyun Chodd Chala Tera Yeh Jahaan…

(But God please, why should anyone be sacrificed to fulfill this desire*…

Before the arrival of a flower-like, smiling [peaceful] time,

why did this life leave your world…)

{*Why should there be sacrifice for the sake of creating this division-less, conflict-free society?}

Ek Lau Is Tarah Kyun Bhuji Mere Maula,

Ek Lau Zindagi Ki Maula. (2)

(Why was a flare extinguished like this, my Lord,

A flare of Life, my Lord)

Thanks to Mitasha Muses

Vaishnava Janato

Vaishnav jan to tene kahiye je
PeeD paraayi jaaNe re
Par-dukhkhe upkaar kare toye
Man abhimaan na aaNe re

SakaL lok maan sahune vande
Nindaa na kare keni re
Vaach kaachh man nishchaL raakhe
Dhan-dhan janani teni re
Sam-drishti ne trishna tyaagi
Par-stree jene maat re
Jivha thaki asatya na bole
Par-dhan nav jhaalee haath re

Moh-maaya vyaape nahi jene
DriDh vairaagya jena man maan re
Ram naam shoon taaLi laagi
SakaL tirath tena tan maan re

VaN-lobhi ne kapaT-rahit chhe
Kaam-krodh nivaarya re
BhaNe Narsaiyyo tenun darshan karta
KuL ekoter taarya re

One who is a vaishnav
Knows the pain of others
Does good to others, esp. to those ones who are in misery
Does not let pride enter his mind

A Vaishnav, Tolerates and praises the the entire world
Does not say bad things about anyone
Keeps his/her words, actions and thoughts pure
O Vaishnav, your mother is blessed (dhanya-dhanya)

A Vaishnav sees everything equally, rejects greed and avarice
Considers some one else's wife/daughter as his mother
The toungue may get tired, but will never speak lies
Does not even touch someone else's property

A Vaishnav does not succumb to worldly attachments
Who has devoted himself to stauch detachment to worldly pleasures
Who has been edicted to the elixir coming by the name of Ram
For whom all the religious sites are in the mind

Who has no greed and deciet
Who has renounced lust of all types and anger
The poet Narsi will like to see such a person
By who's virtue, the entire family gets salvation

Thanks to

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Life in a small town - 2

The Dude

The scene is this - the private bus stand of my town; a fruit shop 10 ft from the road; a drunkard sparwled in a large puddle of murky water in front of the fruit shop (referred to as 'The Dude' from here on) , and two cops towering over him (both the cops are standing on some sort of a wooden plank connecting the fruit shop to the road).

Cop1: You!! .. get up!.. YOU!!..GET UP!! (all this in malayalam, of course)

The Dude: (the Dude hardly moved)

Cop2: You!!

The Dude: Huh.. (he slowly lifts his head to see what all the commotion is about)

Cop1: You!!.. Get up (The cops, I noticed at this point, were hardly angry at the Dude; they were more matter-of-fact about the whole situation)

The Dude: (by now had lifted his body a bit, from waist up, and was looking at the cops with a slight swagger) Salaam Saab.. (our man manages to cop out a smart salute to go with the call of 'Sir'>

Cop1&2: (Amused by the whole situation, and grinning by now).. Aah.. you can continue sleeping there (they dismiss the drunkard with a wave of the hand, and a chuckle, and take a few steps toward the road)

The Dude: Ok Sir! (He brings the episode to its rightful end and gets back to his sleep, back in the puddle ofcourse!)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Paandan Naaya

A malayalam poetry gem by the great poet Kunjan Nambiar,

Paandan naayude pallinu shauryam
Pandeppole phalikkunnilla
Pandivanoru kadiyaloru puliye
Kandichathu njaan kandariyunnen

Sing it out loud for maximum effect!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Life in a small town - 1

That is one mean junction in my town - it really is!

It is one where you can go from one road to any other road. Rather, the 1st is sparsely used, and the 2nd and 3rd feed the 4th - a one way. There are no traffic signals and usually a traffic policeman tries to manage the manic traffic that jostles towards the 4th road. Now it not so much the cross-traffic that is the issue there, but the fact that you have all kinds of vehicles, from buses to bi-cycles trying to push through that small neck of the road. Add to that a few well placed potholes, of various shapes and sizes, obviously, and you get the picture. It is one of those places where if you are on a two-wheeler you feel as if you are stalked by one of those huge primeval predators, except that here the hunters come in the shape of cuboids, run on wheels, and creep up behind you before letting out a loud blare, invariably throwing you off balance directly into the path of the metallic beast.

"So what?", you may ask. You pick any town in India, small or large, and you will find atleast one junction worthy of the curse. Yeah, I agree, but my point is not that the this junction is one of a kind, but to simply paint a picture of the place where the incident took place that humid September afternoon (This is no murder mystery mind you. So don't get all worked up when I mention that 'incident'. Relax, continue sipping that bottle of coke you just kept aside, and let the music play).

Anyway, there I was in my car trying to squeeze through the traffic when I saw this old man trying to cross the road - right at that junction!

In the middle of the commotion there were these two cops trying hard to control the traffic. One of them, the sub-ordinate, suddenly saw the subject and started shouting at him. I couldn't quite make out what he was trying to say as the window was rolled up, though, I could make out that he was not quite pleased with the old fella. He quickly cut through traffic to reach the old man and tried animatedly, very, (atleast that much I can vouch for) to dissuade the bloke from trying what he was about to do. During the argument he would break for a second, wave and shout at a passing vehicle, and then revert to pursue the challenge. The old man, with his cream woolen head-cap and cardigans always had one eye on the vehicles and could be seen stepping aside or jumping away as and when he found himself seconds away from peril. He just refused to listen to the cop.

After sometime, the policeman finally gave up and decided to help the fellow the cross the road. With one hand raised to try and stop the incessant traffic, and the other firmly latched on to the old man, he made his way through the mess.

By now I had reached the neck, the choking point.

As I made my way past, I turned around for a second and caught what I thought was a very enduring scene. The two had successfully made it to the other side. And the old man having got his wish, was patting the cop on his shoulder, the way a father would pat his son for a job well done. The gesture seemed to re-establish the old man's seniority over the cop in addition to thanking him. He then started moving away from the traffic. The cop, overwhelmed by the unexpected gesture from the frail old man, broke out into a wide grin and started cracking a joke with his partner.... 'A sunshine moment!'

BLARE!! Damn! These metallic monsters... Get out my way you old creep!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


I stuck out and curled my tender little pink tongue, and pressed it against the dog's. I did the same with my little nose - so that my face, was now flat against the dog's face. I started making nasal sounds, there after - at times to scare the animal, otherwise to tease it. I was shaking my head from side-to-side, looking the pug straight in its eye, when the heavy hand of my Papa gently tapped my tiny bum, urging me to stay still and make peace with the cur.

The train whistled and trundled its way through the dark night - past nonchalant trees, trying to outrun a wind that came down from the mountains afar.

My Papa, never good at planning things, had got us the two side berths in a train that had far outlived it's glory days with some last minute booking.

My Mama was sleeping on the berth above and my Papa was trying to catch some shut-eye having placed me on the not so gentle curvature of his belly.

I loved to run my hands over the outline of the dog, but I disliked the smell of Papa's sweaty t-shirt, quite unlike the fragrance of my Mama's hair that put me to sleep every night at home. I could see strands of cloth standing up from Papa's t-shirt like the smoke that came out of his cigarettes. The strands would disappear under my fingers as I traced the dog, and would reappear, curled up, as the fingers moved on.

The lights were still on, and I could see the pallu of my Mama's saree hanging over the side of her berth. Once in a while she pulled it back, but it always re-appeared and peeped back at me through the flowery-eyes of its patterns. I could see my Mama's dangling right hand and was fascinated by the vermilion dabbed nails of her fingers. But, as I strained further to get a better look at all this I was stopped by a tap from my Papa - at times he would coat it with a gentle reprimand. He would inevitably rest his hand on my back, as a final sign for me to go to sleep.

Outside, the moon stared at me from a vast lonely space.


The skin felt cold, membrane-like, stretched over what was inside. Papa had lost a lot of weight in the last few months and the belly had flattened, leaving little signs of the once prominent protrusion.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the pallu of my Mama's saree, now a faded white,a lattice of criss-crosses, pulled up every now and then to dab her eyes. Her fingers were bony and her nails a pale white, a white that only old-age could paint.

Papa was bare-bodied, and I was on him. There were no sounds, no smells, and I knew his hand wouldn't move to hold me still.

As I looked at it, his hand, the skin long shriveled, and the bones and muscles stubborn hard, the memory of that night in the train popped out at me, like the contents at the back of an old drawer.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Interview with the common man

Thursday, January 10, 2008


They met over coffee that night - early, just-on-time, and apologetic.

Pleasantries were exchanged and formalities done with : health and wealth talked about, and matters of work and family dispensed with.
Few laughs were exchanged thereafter - some on each other, the rest on someone else.

Then came the rumours - some direct jibes, the rest, about someone else.

The sound of the trumpets followed, announcing them chest thumpers. One did it straight-out, while the other went round-about; one happened to be coy, while the other smiled in one-upmanship.

Books, Movies and Marriage, as topics of conversation; one liked it not, but then, even he had an opinion - at times politically correct, at times a frank critique; some times taking advice, at times giving one.

One remained silent, the second contributed sparely, the third talked the most, and the fourth continued to change topics.

A break to place the order, and another for a sip; a break for water, and another for a piss; a break for a call, and another for a message; and some breaks, that lingered on.

A fifth called and announced a delay - the thought of a possible drop-out spread around the table. Just then, a sixth called to say that he was on his way.
A broken thread of conversation is picked up by someone.

Attack - Defence, emotional - rationale, distracted - I-don't-give-a-shit, My point of view-Your point of view, Hitler-Hummer, Godse - Gandhi, Work-life balance - Money as a motivator, some show-off - some self-praise, some testosterone - some lack of it, ageing - the flight of time, some nostalgia - then for old time's sake, masks worn in self-amazement - masks shred to much fanfare, remarks that reinforce opinions - remarks that make interesting thought, cornered - leading the charge, Attack - Defence ; a little bit of change, but mostly the script remains the same.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Kariyila kattupole (Dir. Padmarajan ; Cast. Mohanlal, Mammootty)
Some things facinated me in this really good murder-mystery by Padmarajan. One, the audience is told the progression and ending of the story right at the start, but is still kept guessing till the end. Two, everyone speaks the truth in the movie; and that makes the story look as if it is waiting to be unraveled. Three, some nice characters and dialogues (Mammootty as the brash, and allegedly womanising film director, for example).
An ex-detective and his wife decide to figure out the mystery behind their missing ex-client. That what makes the movie outstanding is the excellent casting of the lead couple and the brilliant banter between the husband and wife. And to think the movie was shot in just 12 days!!
Nora Charles: Take care of yourself
Nick Charles: Why, sure I will.
Nora Charles: Don't say it like that! Say it as if you meant it!
Nick Charles: Well, I do believe the little woman cares.
Nora Charles: I don't care! It's just that I'm used to you, that's all.
Nora Charles: All right! Go ahead! Go on! See if I care! But I thinks it's a dirty trick to bring me all the way to New York just to make a widow of me.
Nick Charles: You wouldn't be a widow long.
Nora Charles: You bet I wouldn't!
Nick Charles: Not with all your money...
Nick Charles: Now my friends, if I may propose a little toast. Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.
Nora Charles: You give such charming parties, Mr. Charles.
Nick Charles: Thank you, Mrs. Charles
Nora Charles: Pretty girl.
Nick Charles: Yes. She's a very nice type.
Nora Charles: You got types?
Nick Charles: Only you, darling. Lanky brunettes with wicked jaws.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Baggy Green !

There is something exciting about waking up at 5:00 in the morning (“rather crazy”, some of you may mumble); cautiously opening the creaky bedroom door (trying to anticipate, unsuccessfully, the next creak); tip-toeing down the stairs in dead darkness (a slip, a stumble and a few missed stairs to show as price paid for not waking up the other less excitable inmates of the house); and on reaching the living room - groping, locating, and cringing as the remote crashes on the floor; before finally switching on the telly and frantically pressing ‘Mute’ in quick succession, so that a scream may not escape the speakers into the pre-dawn darkness.

Such were the start of the days of my childhood, and to a certain extent even now, whenever the Indian cricket team toured down under, to Australia.

The dark screen of the telly would slowly light-up - wiping the darkness from my face and chasing the darkness from the room.

As my eyes adjust to the light, and I find myself a chair (a stubbed-toe and a sore knee to show for the attempt), I would be greeted with live feed from Australia – Boxing Day Test Match!

Shaking off drowsiness from my head, I would find myself being hypnotized by the likes of a Richie Benaud or a Mark Taylor, or that affable Carribean, Micheal Holding – refreshing!

As far as cricketing venues go, there is no better place than Australia to play the game. Unlike the dustbowls of India and Pakistan, the grey-chilly-damp-stiff-upper-lip English weather, or the faded and worn-out greens of muggy South Africa and West Indies, Australia provides a feast for the eye – a huge circle of green, with stripes of light and dark running across, restricted in the middle of those sprawling, handsome stadiums. The pitch, the colour of golden wheat, one that is assured to offer both bounce and pace; and the weather warm, sunny and crisp (Yes, that is the word that comes to my mind when I think of cricket in Australia – Crisp!); ideal for Test cricket. The cricketers wearing their fresh starched whites (the Aussies have always had a slight distinct yellow tinge to their clothes, as if unwashed, but likeable, nevertheless).

With some of the longest boundaries in the world, where batsmen run Fours (I have seen them run 5 once for an over-throw – good for the athletic Aussies; not so good for the Indians who relish hitting the boundaries than running the quick singles), the Aussie tour is a real endurance test; from the quality of stroke-play, to the aggressive opposition, cricket down-under is enough to make or break careers (So, would concur a V.V.S. Laxman, but not so, would say an Aakash Chopra).

The fascination does not end there. Even the telecast would be different each time, with ever changing fonts, new camera angles like stump vision, new forms of dynamic game analysis like ultra-slow motion, and even presentation styles – with players introducing themselves (on T.V.) as they stepped onto the field to bat.

As it is with other tours, one could also get to see veteran players who have now either turned commentators or coaches or have just dropped in for the match – the David Boons, Allan Borders and Mark Taylors of Australia.

And then the ‘quicks’ would start steaming in from the bottom of the TV screens towards the trepid batsman at the top, batsmen with tenuous grips on their bats trying to stop the cherry from crashing into their stumps. Sound of the ball nicking the outside edge, fielders grassing a catching, the ball scampering towards the fence fearing the sweet thump of the willow, Chin music – noise for the batsmen and a good beat for the spectators, the Hook, the Pull, the-one-that-bounced-a-bit, one on the chest another on the helmet, the chest-thumping on knocking down ‘Timber’, and huge Australian men and women waving Fours with a beer in one hand!

MCG, Sydney, Perth (!!), Adelaide, Gabba .. Bring it on!


I woke-up late for the Boxing-day test of the 2007 series. But what greeted me were 3 of the most beautiful dismissals I had seen in recent times.

Phil Jacques, fooled by a Kumble Googly was dragged out of the crease, and Dhoni did the rest behind stumps (there are very few instances in cricket that can match the embarrassment of a spinner completely fooling the batsman, I feel).

Zaheer followed up with a beauty to dismiss Ponting - the left-armer bowling from around the stumps with a bowl that angles in and moves away just that little bit from the right handed batsman, clipped the bails on its way back. With Ponting, the ball disappeared from the screen as the batsman played on the front-foot, and the next frame was that of the batsman outside the crease, covering the stumps completely, with the bails flying off on either side.

Hussey, the person to have the biggest test average after Sir Don, was next. Cool, efficient, professional, and determined (he made it to the side when 30+), he was fooled by a Kumble Googly (again!) that caught him on his back-foot plumb in-front.

As I publish this post, India has lost the MCG test by over 300 runs, and are struggling in the New Year’s test at SCG. The injuries are hurting India - with Zaheer returning to India. With the bouncy track of Perth to come next, the Indians have some hard work up ahead.


to his Uncle, by Ruskin Bond.

Dedicated to the memory of my uncle,
James Bond,
Who was a dentist by profession and not,
As some believe, a secret agent....
His epitaph reads:
Stranger! Approach this spot with gravity,
James Bond is filling his last cavity.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

" The private life of a child starts with his first tooth-brush."

- Spectator, Higuita & Other Stories by N.S. Madhavan