Wednesday, April 12, 2006

This is one hell of a crazy city. An aged superstar, well past his prime, who had a massive heart attack a couple of months back, dies. And the whole city is thrown into a frenzy of grief -- or a show thereof.

I mean, why would you burn tires, stop buses, close down shops, stop autos from running and bring the city to the brink of riot out of grief? Where's all the anger coming from? More importantly, who is it directed against? A cruel fate that takes away the hero at, well, the time of life when it was not quite unexpected? The doctors who couldn't save this one precious life, Karnataka's pride? Veerappan, for kidnapping him years ago and possibly causing enough trauma to take away a few years of his life?

Even as I write, there are groups of young louts on the streets, circling around the neighbourhood on bikes and crying slogans that sound positively bloodthirsty. They would be frightening if one could get over the absurdity of the situation. All shops around my place are shut, even the chemists. Maybe they are all mourning, too crazed by grief to stand there and sells Crocin. It is possible.

Earlier in the day when the news just broke, I sniggered when people said 'let's go home quickly. The city's going to turn crazy very soon.' I was condescending towards a friend who called to ask me to stock up on supplies because the shops might be shut for the better part of next week. I thought, secretly amused but very happy to leave office a whole hour early, how we unwittingly contribute to general panic.

They seem to have known what they were talking about, for they had all lived through Rajkumar's abduction when schools, colleges, markets and cinema halls were shut in the city for a fortnight.

There was this man on TV standing outside Dr Rajkumar's gate who started keening 'annnnnnnaaaaa' the minute the TV cameras turned towards him.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Writing a long and convoluted feature story is amazingly like taking an exam, I have discovered in the course of a long and illustrious career. There’s all the build-up, the talking to a million people, doing research that seems worthy of a Ph D thesis, getting different perspectives and wondering what angles to take… it’s all so much like the last-minute scramble for notes before an exam and the actual sitting down to do the mugging that I am a complete nervous wreck by the time it comes to actually writing the damn story.

It’s not quite surprising, considering I tie myself into knots about something as simple as getting clothes stitched by the tailor or having a haircut. Needless to say, exams used to turn me into a quivering mass of jelly-like substance, and I have never felt happier than on the day I answered the last exam of my life. Actually it was a bit flat, as such much anticipated moments are wont to be, but on hindsight it was quite the happiest day of my life, completely surpassing other momentous occasions such as topping a subject in the 10th boards or the day I got married (oh, by far. In fact, that had a rather exam-y feeling too).

I sit on the computer on a Sunday afternoon while the world frolics, goes out to lunch and plans a nice evening out with friends, digressing into writing a blog post in spite of the distinct fluttery feeling running up and down my middle that comes from the knowledge that sooner or later I will HAVE to turn to that MS Word document containing exactly 212 words of the story I started writing this morning. And finish it.

My research is complete and rather thorough, even if I say so myself, I have all the facts arranged quite neatly in my head, and I have even gone to the rather uncharacteristically methodical length of arranging all the quotes in a separate document for quick and efficient reference. Now all that’s left to do is put it all together.

Friends call and I lament about the situation, they tut-tut knowingly and suggest various remedies—go for a walk, take a nap, SIT DOWN AND FINISH IT OFF. Meanwhile, I slowly learn to live with the fluttery sensation, wonder how bad it would be if I wasn’t able to produce the story at all (I mean, they WOULD manage somehow, no?) and tell myself ‘this time tomorrow, it’ll be done’.

And instead of doing something to further this cause, I read another chapter of Down Under by B Bryson which manages to distract me for a bit but not as thoroughly as I would have wished, play endless games of Minesweeper, pounce upon the phone when it rings, glad for the legitimate distraction it provides. And sit down and write a post for a blog I blithely ignore most of the time.

No, no, no, this will just not do.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Another era, or two years ago

Does anyone remember the Shubha Mudgal album Ab Ke Sawan from a very long time ago (actually, just about 6 years)? It had lovely songs like Seekho Na, Hai Pyar to Musafir, Dere Dere and my favourite, a song called Bairi Chayn. I heard this album so incessantly and obsessively back then that I still remember most of the lyrics and am very tempted to quote all of them extensively here. Don’t worry, I won’t, but it was quite an exceptional album – I could almost compare it to Rabbi.

I suddenly thought about it today and had a sudden urge to listen to it -- the kind of mad urge you only get when it comes to doing completely useless stuff and never about filling tax forms. And realized that though I still had the tape in my possession (a remarkable achievement in itself, considering I lose an average of two sunglasses a month), I had nothing to play it on. I have a tape recorder that has not been used in more than a year, whose head is so far gone that my quite basic cellphone has better sound. Incidentally, this tape recorder was acquired by us just about a couple of years back – I can only guess that we were planning to save it for a private antique collection, for why we would have gone and bought a two-in-one when it was at the very edge of its extinction as a species I have no idea.

Like most civilized people (who haven’t got around to buying a home theatre), we listen to music mostly on the computer. There are nifty little peer-to-peer music search engines that my most computer savvy brother installs for us from time to time, using which we download music illegally from the Net. Most of the time, though, my brother does this himself and we, lazy parasites that we are, just copy songs from his hard disk onto ours. I said from time to time because most of these engines help to positively colonize our system with viruses, so we are forced to regretfully abandon them after a time and reformat the comp or whatever.

Now, my brother is not quite as fond of Shubha Mudgal (what a voice) as me, so understandably the songs were not shyly waiting at some corner of the hard drive to be discovered and listened to. And I was quite determined to use the tape. Finally, I realized I have another almost prehistoric device at my disposal – my dictaphone (yes, it uses actual cassette tapes, yes, those brown spools you can actually touch with a finger).

So I am playing the tape on it right now. The sound emanating from its tiny speaker is pretty bad (very close to transistor radio sound), you have to actually rewind and forward to get to a song you want to hear, and it runs on unrechargeable batteries that have almost run out. My techno-junkie brother looks at me aghast, with a ‘how can you bear this’ look on his face, but I’m having a lot of fun.

P.S. On a not completely unrelated note, I happened to tune in to Vividh Bharati for about ten minutes on the two-in-one earlier this evening. A show called Aaj ke Fankaar was just starting with the evening’s host, Neelam something, singing praises of ‘Jumping Jake’ Jeetendra, who, according to her, belonged to a family of jewellers but was bitten by the ‘Glaymour bug’, necessitating an entry into films and dancing to such immortal classics as Taki, o taki, o taki taki taki re, jab se teri aankhon mein jhanki