This blog is for a dear friend, confidante and boss. When I was going through a particularly bad patch, Shiva said to me “ these are horrible things to happen to a person. True. But, your life is too large for you to let such small things come in the way of living”. And yet he let something as trifling as malaria get him. At the risk of sounding clichéd, without Shiva I wouldn’t be where I am now or writing this blog at all. Even if I have known him only for a year, I am glad I knew him at all and I wish I had known him for longer. This blogpost, that I wrote a week ago, is about this city, Bangalore, where I have shifted for a month now. My being here, doing the job that I do, and living a different life is partly due to Shiva. Shiva Dhakal, you had no business to go.
It has been a month since I shifted to this city. A city, that now, seems full of glass office buildings and a city that is reeling under the impact of The Great IT Exodus. Bangalore is where my grandparents settled after my grandfather’s retirement and have lived there since, some 30 years almost. Which means I have been visiting Bangalore almost every holiday? For me, Bangalore meant a good time, my grandparents, no school, vacation, cousins and friends to play with, relatives, and all that is old and traditional.
This time it is different. I am here on work. So good times are fewer and farther between. But they still are in steady supply.
For a start, this city of parks has not changed much in that respect, at least in this neighborhood. I remember going to Krishnarao park with my grandfather and playing in the playground there. I now go to the park for my walks. A multitude of health conscious folk and gossip lovers descend on the park every morning rather early and traverse the same circular path every day. Down the road is Lalbagh which I go to off a Sunday. This vast and beautiful space of greenery and trees and lakes is truly exotic for this Bombayite. To have them so accessible is a dream come true. Shiva loved nature, he would have loved Bangalore.
Over the past few weekends, I got to check out three places to eat. First, with Aparna, Vinita and Sruthi, I had a hungry breakfast at Vidyarthi Bhavan. We waited for close to 30 minutes standing like hawks over other people having breakfast and keeping a look out for emptying seats. When we finally did sit down, we were famished. We had the idli, vada and masala dosa. The masala dosa and the filter coffee were to die for. Definitely, a must if you are in Bangalore any time. Second, I went to Maiya’s for lunch with Nikki. We went up to the Gujarati part of the restaurant. The food was good but not great. I mean, nowhere near those awesome Gujarati thali places in Bombay like Samrat and Panchvati. Koshy’s, on the other hand, was a delectable find. I went there with Sam and a brood of her lovely friends. It is this really old café-type setup, famous for its kerela food, but I had their fish and chips which was also good. Shiva loved fish, he would have enjoyed this place. Also this marked my first drinking outing in Bangalore. Sadly, when I asked for more rum and coke, I was told it was too late. That’s right, Bangalore closes all liquor by 11.30. Shiva would have laughed at such a rule and wondered how I lived here. Shiva would have enjoyed a gastronomical exploration of this city. Shiva loved food.
I must tell about my first client at work. Yes yes, there are things like client confidentiality and all that, so no names and such, but still it makes for an interesting story. It’s a hospital that is looking for marketing solutions. They are a ‘boutique’ hospital. And I had to google that myself. Meeting up with the COO was even more interesting. He waxed eloquent about what the hospital offers and why the prices are so exorbitant (because of the state-of-the-art technology etc). And then, he launches on healthcare in India, how ‘Indian’s culturally don’t care about people dying on the street. Thought running through my head: how posh for a man so concerned about public health and the ‘Indian mentality of not caring’ to be heading such an exclusive luxury facility? Shiva would have wondered what I was doing with ‘boutique’ hospitals and laughed at my predicament. He would have said, “ its ok. You can do it”.
This weekend, I spent at Valley School, that alternative education school of the Krishnamurthy Foundation Institute (KFI) in the beautiful, green outskirts of Bangalore. I had gone there for a workshop on rhythm, art and movement. There was dancing, singing, carpentry and drawing and painting. All of which I did. The greenery of the valley beckons and I see myself a frequent visitor there. If Shiva had come for this, he would have escaped to visit the villagers and break bread with them assuming they would have some delicious food.
While there, I learnt this beautiful Bengali song, that I reproduce here
Khwaja’r name pagol hoiya
Phiri ami Ajmer giyago
(Eto Kore daklam tare)- 2
Tobu dekha pailam na
Pagol Chhada duniya cholena (hai re)
*(Tui pagol tor mon-o-pagol)-2
Pagol pagol korish na
Pagol chhada duniya cholena (hai re)
(Murshid ache deshe deshe
Ei jogote koto beshe re)- 2
(Dhorte parle pabi re tui)- 2
Behest- er-I nazrana
Pagol chhada duniya chole na (hai re)
Tui pagol tor mon-o-pagol *
The meaning, in a gist, is that in searching for god/ultimate/truth, I have become crazy. I have looked everywhere and haven’t found it. I even went to Ajmer but to no avail. But that’s ok. Without the mad people/ madness, the world wouldn’t run. You are mad and so is your heart, don’t call other people mad because without the mad, the world wouldn’t run. There are many Murshid (philosphers, guides, guru, teachers) in different forms in the world everywhere. And yet you dont see the ultimate until you do see it.
Shiva has been one of my Murshids . I am unable to keep track of all that is lost by losing him.
Being unemployed for the last few months has been great for my cinematic education. I have come across three beautiful movies in this time that I would recommend to everybody around me. They are: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and District 9.
Movie: Before Sunrise
Director: Richard Linklater
Year of Release: 1995
Before Sunrise is a love story. And it’s about love at first sight. Now before you dismiss it as some kind of run of the mill romantic comedy, let me explain. It is about an American guy (in his early 20s) who meets a French girl (also in her early 20s) on a train to Vienna. They impulsively decide to spend a day and night together exploring Vienna and exploring each other. The next day they part ways, the girl goes to Paris and the guy goes back to America. The movie is about the meeting and the exploring. Each time they speak it seems they are tentatively and hesitatingly digging deeper into each other. All at once you see confusion, excitement, curiosity, embarrassment, longing, love, desire, lust, intrigue and the all important need to define where next this relationship is headed. At last, when night arrives all these emotions are manifested in their conversation about whether or not to have sex. Should we do it? Perhaps not? Would it spoil this wonderful thing we have had all day? And yet, they seem to enjoy even this discussion of the possibility of having sex. Their comfort with each other is so complete. In the end, they realize they cannot really bid goodbye to each other and decide to meet again in the railway station at Vienna after 6 months. Obviously, we don’t know if they do.
Movie: Before Sunset
Director: Richard Linklater
Year of Release: 2005
Before Sunset is a sequel. It is set ten years on (quite literally with the same actors), when the characters are in their early 30s. They have both changed considerably. The guy who was a struggling writer in the first movie has actually published a book and as part of its promotion has been touring Europe. He meets the girl in Paris. The girl is working for an environmental organization. They hit it off once again. Obviously, someone stood someone else up 6 months after their first meeting. But that is cleared up fairly early in the movie. A very interesting and engaging repartee follows between them as they discuss politics, love, sex, work, marriage, children etc throughout the movie. There is less embarrassment and confusion. They are very different people now, but their changed selves are falling in love all over again. The audience now wants to know if this is going to be another transitory meeting like the earlier meeting or if it is the beginning of something more lasting.
Movie: District 9
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Year of Release: 2009
In contrast, the third movie, District 9, literally takes the heart out of your lung cage, plays ball with it, slaps it around, gives it a shake, irons it out, puts it through the shredder, stamps on it, and then, still beating, albeit faintly, puts it back in your lung cage. Admittedly this movie requires a mood, the mood to think and the mood to be bombarded with the realities of the world. If you have read Kafka’s Metamorphosis, this is very much like that. The story, set in South Africa, revolves around a man, an officer in the administration, who is given the job of clearing out an alien settlement, District 9, because they are ‘illegal’ immigrants and have created a lot of resentment among the locals. The movie starts out like a political documentary with sociology experts and the like giving their piece of wisdom to the camera. And quite early on you are introduced to the protagonist. The character has a comic clumsy side to him and the start is rather lighthearted, very deceptive of what is to come. In time, the protagonist comes in contact with some fluid that changes a human in to a ‘prawn’ which is the derogatory term for the aliens. Attitudes of people everywhere changes towards him. Why? His own attitudes towards the prawns, the people, his wife, and the Nigerian arms trading gangs are changing completely.
The one unnecessary element was perhaps the segment about the Nigerian arms trading gangsters. And ofcourse too much blood and gore for my liking. I firmly believe in the strength of a subtly crafted message. But I also realize it’s the times we live in; the more blood and gore the more candid the picture is perceived to be.
This is social satire and political allegory of the toughest, most hard-hitting kind. Interestingly, when I googled the movie, most reviews seemed to consider it in the category of sci-fi and evaluate it on that score. However, except for the alien bit, I think it has very little sci-fi and lots more of social commentary.
Be sure to catch these when you can. They are classics.
Nostalgia fills me up,
Like porridge fills a cup.
Viscous, slow-moving slime,
Twisting through my frame,
seeping into every cavity,
gagging every pore,
Rising in my throat.
At the throat,
As if to ponder,
Or to throttle.
Nostalgia seduces her kill