Monday, July 30, 2007

Hilarious Tragi-Comedy

The italicised text is quoted from the First Edition of The Gulag Archipelago written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (translation by Thomas Whitney) and chronicles the mood during The Great Purge of 1937. Having been re-reading the book after about a gap of a year and a half, I was shocked yet again by the Stalin regime. The following excerpt would have been ultra comic, had it not been for the unbelievably tragic (even farcically tragic) situation then.

Here is one vignette from those years as it actually occurred. A District Party Conference was underway in Moscow Province. It was presided over by a new Secretary of the District Party Committee replacing one recently arrested. At the conclusion of the conference a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. Of course, everyone stood up (just as everyone had leaped to his feet during the conference at every mention of his name). The small hall echoed with "stormy applause, rising to an ovation". For three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the "stormy applause rising to an ovation" continued. But palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching. And the older people were panting from exhaustion. It was becoming insufferably silly even to those who rally adored Stalin. However, who would dare to be the first to stop? The secretary of the District Party Committee could have done it. He was standing on the platform, and it was he who had called for the ovation. But he was a newcomer. He had taken the place of a man who had been arrested. He was afraid! After all, NKVD men were standing in the hall applauding and watching to see who quit first. And in that obscure, small hall, unknown to the Leader, the applause went on--six, seven, eight minutes! They were done for!Their goose was cooked! They couldn't stop now till they collapsed with heart attacks! At the rear of the hall, which was crowded, they could, of course, cheat a bit, clap less frequently, less vigorously, not so eagerly--but up there with the presidium where everyone could see them? The director of the local paper factory, an independent and strong minded man stood with the presidium. Aware of all the falsity and all the impossibility of the situation, he still kept on applauding! Nine minutes! Ten! In anguish he watched the secretary of the District Party Committee but the latter dared not stop. Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on till they fell where they stood, till they were carried off the hall on stretchers and even then those who were lef would not falter...Then, after eleven minutes the director of the paper factory assumed a business-like expression and sat down in his seat. And oh! a miracle took place! Where had the universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone? To a man, everyone stopped dead and sat down. They had been saved! The squirrel had been smart enough to jump off the revolving wheel.

That, however, was how they discovered who the independent people were. And that was how they went about eliminating them. That same night the factory director was arrested. They pasted a ten years on him on the pretext of something quite different. But after he had signed form 206, the final document of the interrogation, his interrogator reminded him: "Don't ever be the first to stop applauding"

PS: Sigh!

Friday, July 27, 2007

The New Delhi Diaries (Part 3)

DAY FOUR (22nd August 2007) : The Times of Victoria (?)

Ra and I took our leave from Zebi in the afternoon. It had been a very funny, adventurous one day trip we had had and both of us felt bad at having had to call it a day. (Incidentally, I forgot to mention that Zebi is putting a lot of my stupid, rotten and incredibly egregious stuff that I would not want to be reminded of as mine, to very good and productive use! Three cheers for him for recycling useless shit into products enhancing market value. Now there's an Engineer (or designer or whatever)!)

I had seen the Engineer's India Ltd. building while I was roaming around Delhi and had been reminded of Shandy being employed there. However, having not known his address and all, I had promptly forgotten about it all. Then Ra mentioned Shandy's residence to be close by and we decided to pay him a visit of sorts.

SHANDY has been the beacon of Victorian mannerisms and etiquettes in this boorish and uncultivated world. And he has been the only one to have known more about English language and history than probably a couple of retired professors in Oxford or Cambridge. Those who don't know him will freak out when they do. Those who do, will take comfort in the fact that he hasn't changed a single teeny-weeny bit!

He lived right behind the infamous charred remains of Upahar Cinema as a paying guest of a Surd who looks younger than Shandy but is actually 63 years old!

We met Shandy in his dhinchak A/C room and cooled off for a while. His 'errand boys' were from Bareilly and Kanpur (:P) and he talked to them in atrociously pronounced Hindi. He was a walking image of Lord Cornwallis treating natives with due deference, bearing the White Man's burden all the while! (Incidentally, Shandy's favourite writer is Rudyard Kipling). Ra and I just couldn't stop laughing. I wish I had a camera then!

The impeccable host that Shandy is, he took us to a restaurant close by and sponsored our lunch even though we were famished when we started. He then took us to the Deer Park which was close by. (It is a brilliant place by the way. If you're close to Safdarjung Enclave/Hauz Khas and have time on your hands, do visit).

We walked around the forest (yes, for all practical purposes it is a forest, right in the heart of Delhi!) spotting deer, peacock, ducks in their ponds etc while I told Shandy of the Series of Unfortunate Events from yesterday. He also took us to many ruins (they are right there in the Deer Park) dating back five hundred years or more and explained to us ignoramuses, salient architectural features and styles used in building them.

However, time was short in supply as Ra and I had plans to go to Gurgaon and visit my cousin Bittu Bhaiya there. So we hastily went to a Madrasi eatery and had some coffee (Shandy poured tons of sugar in his two three four five six spoonfuls!) and took leave, I at least not knowing when I would see Shandy again!


1) I: What do you think of Delhi?
Shandy: It is a city of boors.

(I fondly remember another such instance which was Shandian in a very forceful way. We were being interviewed for entry into NewsWagon and Sahil asked Shandy "What do you have to say about the level of English in college (NIT Surathkal)?"

Shandy to Sahil : Deplorable(!))

2) Shandy: Mr Dwivedi, I must say your English is deteriorating
I : (Sheepishly) Well, I am going to the US.
Shandy: That explains a lot!

Forty minutes of standing on the AIIMS road convinced us that finding conveyance to Gurgaon would hardly be simple. In fact Ra backed out and after literally pushing me in a cab en route to Gurgaon already stuffed with fourteen people, he bade me goodbye. He had not known that his company badge lay safe, ensconced within the deep pockets of my bag and that he would have to return to Delhi to reclaim it.

Bear Hunt and Chicken curry in Gurgaon

It's too bad that I don't have pictures to prove it but the Power Grid Township in Gurgaon is so much like NGV (National Games Village) in Kormangala, Bangalore that I was surprised at the observation (actually it's a couple of notches above NGV in most matters).

It was decided that I would be rolling there and Bittuya would begin making chicken the way he used to in Nazarbagh. His culinary skills have not deteriorated with the passage of time and tasting the food in the night was a veritable trip down the memory lane. Bear hunt was also organised and time was conveniently expended in discussing important and unimportant stuff and making plans for the giant 29" TV that was going to be bought and the Playstation that would make its appearance there! Bittuya's roomie was from Lucknow too and somehow or the other, I have the feeling that country bumpkins always have a nice time together!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The New Delhi Diaries (Part 2)

DAY TWO (20th August 2007) : Another Day in Paradise

Had nothing much to do on the second day. Went back to UP Bhawan, near Chanakyapuri to get my bag from there to Vasant Kunj. Carom dominated the day again as all of us (Bholu bhaiya, Bittu bhaiya, Dragon, Nikki and I) sat there hour after hour bickering over unimportant stuff, demarcating areas on the carom board and assigning them to each one of us and playing with Eesha and Aashi. It was just like old times when we were kids and Nazarbagh used to be our adda.

DAY THREE (21st August 2007) : Lemony Snicket's - A Series of Unfortunate Events

I left early morning for Hauz Khas, in particular, for NIFT where I planned to meet Zebi who had my portable hard disk, CD case and many books. Ra turned up there too (He's coming again to Lucknow the next weekend).

I put my stuff at Zebi's and all three of us began planning what to do next and although we didn't know it yet, the series of unfortunate events had begun.

It was decided that we will attend the OSIAN Film Festival which was showcasing some good movies. Being a junta film festival, it was cheaply priced - 20 bucks a movie with complementary movies to boot! Ok, we decided, for the time being at least, this will be it!

My Tryst with the Intellectual Elite of Delhi

Well, so we decided to close in on the movie "Hanoi Winter '46", a Vietnamese movie by a Director whose name we couldn't pronounce. We went to Siri Fort and got ourselves registered. A word now on the crowd there. It is my contention that Delhi has the largest density of ultra cute chicks anywhere in India. I am sure most of you will agree with me when I say this (for those who don't, well, you just missed it!). Moreover, the mela of chicks (apparently all of them "lit" and all) was overwhelming not just because of the numbers but because of the charged "lit" atmosphere too. For a country bumpkin like me fresh from the wonderment at having been allowed in such a place (I still choose to call Lucknow a sleepy B grade township, which, by the way, is not a pejorative characterisation), it was an awesome journey all the way!

The movie started at 13:45 and we reached the auditorium at 14:00. However, it turned out to be a blessing as the movie was bland, uninspired and boring. We took our leave and began plotting our next move. It was suggested that since Parikrama and Bhayanak Maut will be playing at V Lauch Pad in Pragati Maidan later that night and that the ever resourceful Zebi would find us passes for the concert, we decided to go there when it began. Ra wanted to catch the movie "Curiosity kills the Cat", a Chinese movie he had been raving about for some time. However, since it was scheduled to be screened at 18:30, thought about catching on some good Dilli food.

So it was natural that the next stop should be Qureshi. To our dismay though, we found it closed. We turned on to Nizamuddin for the culinary delights of Kareem. That the Mazar-e-Ghalib would be close by was an added advantage. Zebi, Ra and I planned to humbly prostrate ourselves at the feet of his grave.

But as the way things go, Murphy made a cameo appearance yet again! Kareem wouldn't open until 18:30 and we were stranded. Hungry and tired, it was obvious that Zebi and I turned to Ra for counsel. And we were not surprised that Ra came up with the plan that the best way would be to go to the nearest Metro station (Secretariat) and go to Zaveri Bazaar and catch on Kareem there.

Don't ask me why but somehow we planned to walk to the destination (the nearest Metro Station, that is). After about 20 minutes of walking, we knew we were busted. Nowhere near where we planned to go, we decided to take fresh stock of the situation. It was close to 18:15, we were hungry and the plan to catch the movie was decidedly bust. Also we didn't know if we would get passes to Pragati Maidan as the dude with the passes wouldn't pick up Zebi's phone.

Some minutes later, we found ourselves back at Kareem in Nizamuddin. Incidentally, it had opened just five minutes before and the three of us, forgetting about the future and the movie and the rock concert, quietly, professionally and aggressively attacked the food. When the attack was over and Ra was wondering whether or not to eat the utensils next, it was already 20:10.

The Quest for the MacGuffin

Now comes the truly misadventurous part of the tale. Though specific information shall not be published here, let me say that this journey took us to some shady PCO booths in Nizamuddin from where we went back to Hauz Khas. Ra went to Zebi's place while Zebi and I scoured the slums of Hauz Khas Gaon for well nigh an hour in search of the Ring. We were back in the house much later than was expected of us. But, came back we did. And slept off the fatigue.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The New Delhi Diaries (Part 1)

DAY JEERO (18th August 2007) : None

Papa and I reach UP Bhavan and sleep off the Shatabdi fatigue to rejuvenate and conserve energy for the VISA interview tomorrow.

DAY ONE (19th August 2007) : VISA Power - Went Got It

The line in front of the US embassy is long. Chanakypuri is beautiful. I find people stapling stuff on my passport, I am ushered in, fingerprinted, my identity - one more entry in a voluminous database - is preserved for all eternity. Line 2 is the longest. It says "Non Immigrant VISA" overhead.

It is funny to see Americans at the consulate talk in Hindi with the people who've opted for Hindi as the interview language. "Aap Amrika kyun ja rahe hain?" or "Aapka da_maad petrol pump mein kaam karta hai?" etc with a liberal dose of the all-too-familiar Amreekan accent!

My turn comes and I move to the window full of answers to as yet unasked questions. But the interview turns out to be a joke (not that I mind it!). A few routine questions : "What for?" (Ans : "...PhD..."), "What scores?" (Ans : "Whatever(!)") and my VISA is approved! What a wait for something this easy!

Then Papa and I went around seeing Dariyaganj, Chandni Chauk and saw fleeting glimpses of Lal Qila and Jama Masjid. Here, seeing it up close I began agreeing with Bajpai that Mughal architecture is so regal, majestic, imposing and intimidating that our little Lucknawi (read Awadh) architecture seems puny and uninspiring at best.

The evening saw us come to Vasant Kunj to Babloo Mama's place. Bittu bhaiya and Bholu bhaiya were also found there. Thus the rest of the evening was spent in having good food and lots of carrom/movies on the huge LCD TV.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

On Blogging

I was reading this report that said that many people now were leading two lives-one was the usual real time one and the other was that of their avatar on the internet. Shy, mild mannered and gentle people could vicariously lead flamboyant lifestyles, or else at least portray a semblance of flamboyance on their internet avatars and social networking (notworking?) sites. This leads to a cathartic stress release and acts as stress busters or whatever, the report said.

There are millions who blog. It is in fact, a full scale revolution in itself. You can expose your writings to a readership that potentially spans the entire human race! And going through several blogs on the internet makes you wonder what makes the writers pour out such intensely private thoughts and feelings most of us would shudder to remind our own selves? I am not mentioning the details of what blogs I came across and what specific itch the writers bitched about in graphic detail (at the risk of being overly dramatical: "chill creeps up my spine"!), simply because details, at least in this instance are thoroughly unnecessary.

However, all this makes one think too (yeah, I grudgingly have to acknowledge, sometimes, it's good for health!). For instance, could I do what other bloggers were doing? Could I expose (in the words of Winston Churchill) "my soft white (?) underbelly" for the whole world to glare at? I am pretty private about what I need to tell the world about myself and coupled with my profound sense of cynicism, skepticism and general misanthropy, I can't even think of doing that.

What then, am I blogging for? What is the purpose of it all? Is it an example of herd mentality (is it cool)? Or is it that I write about things that are 'safe' and will not allow others a peek into my mind? What do I write for? And especially, why do I blog?

The answer might lie in the fact that it is flattering to write your own thing and be read and remarked about it by people. However, soon this captures your mind and instead of writing your own thing, you begin writing not your own thing. Maybe this is good, maybe not. Who the fuck cares? I, at least do not! Also, having installed a hit counter on my blog, I have been pleasantly surprised to have found that some humans do actually glance at this blog once in a while. Should my blog be dedicated to these random, unknown guys who read it (apart from myself) and write stuff they might like? I don't know.

If you generalise the question as being "Why does anyone write?", you can get answers like "because I like to", or "It reorganises thought" etc etc, but if you generalise the question as "Why does anyone blog?", then I think the answers like "because I like to" etc become rather weak. I think one blogs because other people can read him. If you are simply fond of writing then I don't think blogging is the thing to do (unless of course, somebody keeps commenting on your literary style etc).

Basically, writing for pleasure does not require feedback and therefore is not a justification for blogging. Those who assert (all too often categorically) that they don't care if others read their blog are probably deluding themselves. If they were to say "I don't care if nobody reads what I write", I could agree with them, but not if 'write' was replaced with 'blog'.

All this, however, does not take into consideration the phenomenon of citizen journalism which is done solely for disseminating information by the author.

My blog is hardly an online journal/diary that will document Abhinav Anand in his many mood-swings, nor is this for Lit activities. This blog, I now declare, is for disseminating information about stuff I think is important/worth disseminating information about.

Over and out!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Alternative MP3

At the request of so many juniors and fellow batchmates who shared that wonderful batch of (0)'07, I am proud to present "Alternative MP3". Thank you all for the appreciation!

Storyline: The following is written by the hero to the XXX female!

Sub: plz read this



my name is XX. hope u recognise me. i used to study at X in ur batch.

please do me a favour by reading this mail in its entirety & by not
drawing premature conclusions until u've read it completely.

my reason for mailing u today is that i needed to inform u something.this
should have been done long ago, but as the old cliched adage goes "better
late than never" so...........

what i wanted to inform u is that i have been in love with u for quite
sometime now(plz don't take it as a prank! i've NEVER been more serious in
my life). this is an admission i am willing to make after a long time it
should have been made. no-one--not even XXXX(who's my best friend)knows of this.

my sole reason for mailing and letting u know is that here in XXXXX, i
have fully come to appreciate the kind of feeling i've always nurtured for
u. i've kept thinking about u all the time while simultaneuosly guarding this secret from any other entity. i don't DARE TO EXPECT anything from ur side. i dare not! but i thought i would unburden myself by this mail.

i say it again-nobody on this earth knows about this & nobody on this earth will ever know about this. i have no hopes, no illusions-nothing of that kind at all. it's just to get a load off my heart that i am writing whatever i am writing.

i hope u r not offended by this mail. i am particularly cautious lest this should hurt or anger u in any way. i still am (though i don't know why!) mortally afraid of u & will never like to see u either angry or hurt. my unconditional & unreserved apologies! sorry!

i'm in no position to justify the kind of stand i have taken & do not attempt to justify it either. this confession of mine was of therapeutic importance to me & i think i'll be happy in the knowledge that u AT LEAST KNOW!

again i dare not hope but.......if u were to mail back.....just once........i'll be the happiest guy on earth
yours truly

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Abso-fucking-lutely topnotch!

This is it!

Vishal Patel, you are God!

Accept humble tributes from nonentities like me.

Images that changed the world (???)

Maybe they did not...but a smasher of link anyway. Click here.

Monday, July 02, 2007

For Indian Cineam freaks

This website does a wonderfully serious discussion of Hindi Cinema! Do check it out if you're the Hindi Film fan!

The Unsung Auteurs of India

The Auteur Theory of film criticism, for the uninitiated, is a style of making movies in which the director becomes the author (yeah, you got it right, the word "Auteur" means "Author", and yes, since it is so esoteric sounding a film criticism theory, it's got to be French) of the movie. The movie bears the director's vision and his philosophy. Moreover, it is characterised by the Director gaining near complete control of the movie by doing multitasking, like being screenplay writer, music director etc. Most popularly known Auteurs are Truffaut, Godard, Eisentein, Tarkovsky, Lynch etc. These guys are supposed to be totally immersed in their movies and handling most of the processes of the collaborative effort that is named as film. In simple terms, an Auteur's movie has the Director as the hero in it. Not only does he call the shots, but the junta goes to the theatre because of the Director.

Some Indian directors who are given credit as Auteurs are Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Shyam Benegal etc. Yeah, the Art Directors, you guessed it right!

However, it is my intention to bring to your notice some directors who, though working under the auspices of the Bollywood Film Industry, have managed to wield the title of Auteur successfully and quietly without being self righteous and sanctimonious about it.

The first name I propose is that of Hrishikesh Mukherjee, whose movies bore unmistakably a stamp of his own personality and his vision. Also he did have near total control of the movie, right from the screenplay/story to the cast. (Yes, I forgot to mention, another hallmark of an Auteur is the near same cast of characters he keeps repeating in many of his movies!). His cast included Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Amol Palekar, Rajesh Khanna, Utpal Dutta etc. Also, he worked mostly with Gulzar, SD Burman (and with RD after SD's death), Salil Chaudhary etc. I think film critics should take note of this fact and probably tag him an Auteur that he is.

Another name that comes to mind is that of Gulzar who remained in total control of his movies ranging from screenplay and story (which he writes mostly by himself (and why not? He is a Sahitya Akademi winner)) to the lyrics of all songs, he manages all things by himself. Frequently seen with the same cast/music directors/artists etc, he shows nearly all the hallmarks of Cinematic Auteurs including the extremely high quality of movies.

And then, we come to Vishal Bharadwaj who is the director of two of most powerful Hindi movies of all times (yes, I mean ALL times!)-MAQBOOL and OMKARA. He has made only three movies till now so statistics is against him in the putative proof of his stature as an Auteur, but given that he makes the music for the movies himself, frequently works with Gulzar (in fact all his four movies have Gulzar as lyricist), I think most of you will agree as his being a genuine auteur.

Other names that might be auteurs (but I'm not sure) are Madhur Bhandarkar, Ram Gopal Verma and maybe even Yash Chopra (???)

Well that's it for the day!