Tuesday, 31 May 2005

Perceived insults to religions

It is so depressing to look at Indian news and every other week find some news about a group of Indians who feel that their religion has been insulted by this or that film or that song or that dress.

Hindus in USA seem to be particularly sensitive persons, getting offended very easily because some body has used a Gita shlok inappropriately or has dared to put a Ganesh picture on a pair of jeans. Remove it or else .. they threaten. This is their assertiveness, they say, we need to protect our religion. I think that it is only a sign of their own insecurity. Ganesh ji or Gita don't need protection of these fundoos.

I had thought that Christians were above it but the Catholic protests over the film "Sins" or the Sikh protests against "Jo Bole So Nihaal", all seem equally pointless. Bengalis protest against someone daring to show their Subhash babu as married and want the film to be withdrawn from cinemas. Shiv Sena persons are already well known for their attack at attempts to "corrupt the Bhartiya sanskriti". The saddest thing is that Government seems to cave in every time, in front of any such protest. I wish someone would tell all these moral police to go to hell and if they don't listen, put them in jail.

***

In the park, I was eating some shahtoots when Brando pulled me away. The branch in my hand slipped and went up, showering a rain of dark shatoots on my head, leaving purple marks on my shirt. It reminded me of eating jamuns at Badri Vishal pitti's house in Hyderabad. Thinking of Hydrabad made me think of Mr. Rock and his wife, our neighbours in N.Rajendra Nagar. Their twin sons, Jeremy and Stephan. Mrs. Rock's nephew had come from Secundrabad. In the evening we would sit together on the wall in front of our home and chat for hours. He was working at a car workshop in Sindhi house. After the Rocks left for Australia, he too went away. Can't remember his name or his face!

***

Sunday, 29 May 2005

Tourist in Rome

Being in Rome is like being in the middle of a set of Benhur or Ten Commandments. Where ever you look, you can see ruins of old buildings, magnificent horsemen, giant statues, the domes of imposing churches rising against the skyline. There is so much of every thing that after a while it stops registering in your mind. With the kind of archeological and artistic treasures that are there in Rome, it is like one big open air museum.

Only in Rome you can have so many wonderful artistic treasures that are completely ignored by tourists. In any other city of Europe, such treasures would be inside the museums. In Rome, you hear all the time, "this is two thousand years old, or 2500 years old.. In the end, it gets so common that you stop thinking about it and valuing it.

For such a long time, I had stopped looking at Rome through the eyes of a tourist. I looked at it as any other city where I had to go to work. So going to Rome meant rushing around in the underground, cursing for the traffic jams and hardly ever raising up the eyes to look around. And yet, it is enough to stop for a moment and look around, it is so incredibly beautiful.

Look at the pictures and tell me if you don't agree.

Rome, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Rome, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Rome, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Rome, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Rome, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Rome, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Rome, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

***

Saturday, 28 May 2005

Hindi film reviews on internet

I am writing this post in Rome on the portable computer.

I have just finished reading the reviews of Bunty & Babli and I don't know whom to believe. Rediff.com says it is a wonderful film, a must watch. Indiafm and Smashits both say that it is a let down and it will be a failure at box office. Indiafm is quite strongly against the film, their review says that the film has started well with housefulls but soon it will a failure and AB will not have a future as a solo hero.

It was completely opposite the last week when "Naina" had came out. Indiafm went on for days and days with articles about how good the film is, what a wonderful actress Urmila is, etc. but for Rediff.com it was a bad copy of a hollywood flick.

Wonder if these websites get contracts for publicity of films, so if they get the contract they praise it and if rivals get it, they tear it down?

***

Sunil Dutt is dead. I remember meeting him in 1968, near Kutub Minar. They were shooting for Gauri. It was a song with, Sunil Dutt and Mumtaz, walking down a small hill with a gumbaj behind them, Dil mera tumhari adayaein le gayin..

Mumtaz had started the transformation but was still not the solo heroine. Gauri had Nutan as heroine.

***

Friday, 27 May 2005

Doing Yoga netis at the Brahmchari asharam

I had never thought that dogs can eat grass. But that was before, we had Brando and before I started taking him out on morning and evening walks.

Evening time in India is Gaudhooli in my mind, the dust raised by cows coming back to home from pastures lit by the rays of sinking sun. In our park, the evening time is kukur-pakhana time, all dog-owners are out with their dogs, no matter if it is raining or snowing. Coming back to vegetarian dogs, I felt amazed to see Brando munching green grass. Nadia explained to me that it is some mechanism for him to clean his stomach since it would make him vomit. So, if he eats lot of grass, that means we must search in the house for his vomits, to clean-up on the next morning.

Eating grass to vomit reminds me of going to Dhirendra Brahmchari's ashram near Gol daak-khana in Delhi in the early seventies. The yoga classes started around 5 in the morning. I used to go there by bicycle from Rajendra Nagar. There we had to do the netis - all the different techniques for cleaning the body. The first neti to be learned was that of vomiting for cleaning the stomach. Everyone there drank a few glasses of tepid water and then cheerfully vomited in the round space delimited by a low wall. Just watching others vomiting made me feel a wave of nausea initially.

Do proper vomiting beta, Bhramchari ji's assistants extorted. So fingers in the throat, I used to go ga-ga-ga, till tears came out of my eyes, trying to vomit. However, with practice, things had got much better. Just standing near the vomiting place, a quick contraction of tummy muscles, brought out every thing inside my stomach in a generous bout of vomit.

There were other netis to learn like taking strings of clothe, putting them in one side of nose, taking out of the other, swallowing the clothe-strings, meters and meters of it, and then bringing them out again (probably by mouth I think!). I never came around to doing those other netis, never progressing beyond the vomiting neti.

Just writing about it, has brought a bit of nostalgia for healthy vomiting. Wonder if I can try it again one of these days, may be when I am alone at home with only Brando (who I am sure would approve!).

***

Wednesday, 25 May 2005

Eating crescentine in the park

On Sunday my friend Mariangela had come from Rimini. Together we had talked for a long time, sitting in the park where the elderly persons' cooperative had organised a "crescentine" fair.

Elderly persons manage small kitchen gardens in the park and are very well organised. Crescentine, the local fried bread, eaten with cold meats like ham or salami, is the staple food for their summer fairs. Some old Italian songs, glasses of wine, hot crescentine and long discussions...a little bit of heaven!

***

Tuesday, 24 May 2005

Uttam Kumar, Suchitra Sen and Durga Puja

Watched the DVD of "Nayak" with Uttam Kumar and Sharmila Tagore. Ray had made it in 1966, just a year before Uttam Kumar had himself produced "Chotti si Mulakat".

Nayak is a stereotype of how we imagine the rich and the famous must be living their lives - it is all a façade. Nice smiles, cars, autograph hunters in the day. Nightmares, loneliness, people trying to exploit you all the time, to fall into alcoholic sleep. In that genre, both Uttam Kumar as Arindam Mukherjee and Sharmila as the feminist journalist with heavy glasses and sans dimples were stereotypes in the film. Yet it was Uttam Kumar's charm that raises the film's interest.

His nightmare with banknotes and skeleton hands holding ringing telephones may not be very imaginative but he makes every thing look effortless. The cliché seemed plausible. Reading his biography it is easy to see why people feel that this film was autobiographical about Uttam Kumar's life.

***

I remember watching Chotti si Mulakat in Alipur Dwar. Vyjayantimala and Ya Ya Hippi Hippi in technicolor. Upperstall says that "He produced 'Chhotisi Mulaqaat' in 1967 starring himself and Vyjayantimala. The film was adaptated from Agniparikhsha and had music by Shankar-Jaikishen . The film however was a dismal failure at the box-office leaving him with a pile of debt and probably leading to his first heart attack. Though he recovered and returned to full time acting, thus clearing his debts, he was never to produce a film again."

The Bangladeshi DVD shop owner has so many Bengali films. The DvD with Nayak has 11 of his films, including different films with Suchitra sen.

It made me remember the Durga Puja in the park in R-block, where they would show all those emotional films - Deep Jale Jaye, Saptpadi,...

***

Saturday, 21 May 2005

Nostalgia killing by fresh fruit & Vegetables

On internet, I watched the songs from the film "Morning Raga" this morning. They are really beautiful. Shabana Azmi looks great. Perizaad Zorabian also. But it is the music that gave me goose-flesh. I had listened to the cassette of this film in Delhi in December and had thought that it was monotonous.

Back in Bologna, I had tried playing it in the car while going to work a couple of times, and then given it up. And then today, watching the songs is completely different from listening to them. Listening to the cassette now will be another experience. Yet it is still the same cassette!

Morning Raga brought memories of Malati. Renu's friend in NPL. In our home, everyone was didi-dada, but not in Rahul's home. There Renu was just Renu. And Malati. Her voice was heavy, almost like a man's. She practiced Carnatak music. Heavenly. Thinking of Malati brought in mind her sister in law, Vatsal's wife, and their twin sons. I remember her crying desperately in the corridor at Wellingdon hospital, the blanket dirty with blood. I didn't know, how to console her. What do we men know about loss of some thing that grows inside you?

***

I have cooked bhindi today. And some arabi. It makes me a bit sad to find all these vegetables at the Bangladeshi fruit and vegetable stalls in Bologna. Till two years ago, I would wait for months to go to Delhi, mentally tasting arhar ki daal, bhindi, karela, mooli ... Now every thing is there in the Bangladeshi and Pakistani shops, very convenient but not so good for the nostalgia.

The Bangladeshi girl in the store had packed bhindi and arabi for me, and then asked me, if I wanted some fresh mangoes? It made me shudder. All my nostalgia, longings and memories killed by fresh fruit & vegetables that come every week from Bangladesh.

***

Friday, 20 May 2005

Live radios from Delhi

I love going to work on my bicycle. While on my bicycle, I simply love looking at people in the cars, stuck in the traffic, waiting with impatient faces, perpetually angry at the world for not moving fast enough.

Part of the way to my workplace is through Ghisello park along the Navile canale. In the park, watching children with their parents or grand-parents makes me feel warm and gooey inside. The ducks with shining green necks, the steel-gray of the water in the canal, the canopy of tall trees with green leaves, transparent with sunlight filtering through, everything looks lovely.

As I work, it is good to listen to Hindi music on internet but sometimes, I wish there was a live radio-station from New Delhi that I could listen to. There are other live radios with Indian music but I want a live station from Delhi.

Italy has hundreds of web-based radios. Any radio worth its salt has an internet version. Why can't the Indian radios do that? Why is website of All India radio without live broadcast for last 2 years or so? I wonder if Delhi B still has Forces' Request with old songs from 1950s and 1960s?

I would love to hear a radio talking about traffic between Maalcha marg and Moolchand or about some accident near ITO, or the procession blocking Patel Nagar, while I sit in my office, look out at San Luca on the top of the verdant hill and imagine that going out, I can get out at Shanker Road, walk towards J block, pass behind Manav Sthali school ...

***

Tuesday, 17 May 2005

Ramayan in the subconscious

Today it is raining and Nadia insists on putting the "raincoat" on Brando before we go out for the evening walk. The raincoat is something that mainly protects his back from getting wet, and it has to be put around his neck and and around his legs. As soon as Nadia uses the word 'impermeabile' or "raincoat", Brando tries to hide under the table. After calling his name repeatedly, he slowly comes out, his head hanging low, his tail between his legs, looking miserable. I call it his "Sita maiyya" look, as if he is imploring the mother earth to open and swallow him.

In the park, he sometimes decides that he has had enough of following me and refuses to move, holding on tight to the ground, looking at me defiantly. This one I call his "Angad ji" look. Today while walking in the park, I thought about this going back to personalities from Ramayan. Of course, it is all between me and him since here no one else, including Nadia would understand what I mean by Sita maiyya or Angad ji. However, I am a bit surprised how some things can remain alive deep inside the mind and come out suddenly like that.

Another example is the involuntary "hey Ram" when I saw a bad accident. The words came to me when I had looked at a boy's body covered with blood. Later, the words 'hey Ram' kept on echoing in my head for a long time.

Yet, if anybody asks me if I believe in Ganesh or Ram or other Gods, Hindu or from any other religion, my answer would be an emphatic no. I don't feel that praying before a statue or saint is going to change any thing. Yet, I know, I will go on using words like Sita maiyya and Angad ji and hey Ram.

***

Sunday, 15 May 2005

Delhi blogs and nostalgia

I was searching for new works of Mukul to add to his page on Kalpana. That is how I came across the blog of a girl called Sonal. The pictures of the park over Pallika bazaar parking and CP in Delhi were like long lost friends. From her blog-links, I went to blogs of other persons. From their links to still other blogs. It is almost addictive. Reading about thoughts, poems, stories, feelings of people. Lives after lives after lives. All similar and yet different.

***

Friday, 13 May 2005

Ceramic cows in Vienna

Came back last night from Vienna. We stayed in a Jesuit house in the periphery of the city, near the summer palace of the king, Schonenbrunn and the Tiergarten zoo. One evening, I did find the time to go the city. It was cloudy and cold with occasional rains.

Vienna is like a wedding cake with baroque buildings all around. I walked down from cathedral in Stephanplatz to the opera house where Strauss had conducted his symphonies, along a road that could have been in Hong-kong or any where else, with slick shop-windows, crowds, Armani, Hugo Boss and Macdonalds. Actually you only need to go to a shopping mall any where in the world and you can find the same atmosphere.

In a small Turkish kebab shop, the man asked me if I was from India. "From where?" his eyes lighted up. For some time we chatted in Punjabi. His Jullundher dialect was so strong that I could hardly understand him. He had been around. Italy, USA, Canada, UK. Emigrant lives. He made me a big kebab with extra helping of every thing, including the hot red chilly sauce.

In the end, while choosing a picture to represent the Vienna visit, I choose the ceramic statue of the cows from the garden in front of a restaurant near the Jesuit house.

I thought of the cows sitting in the middle of road in Delhi, munching placidly, uncaring about the fumes of buses and scooters going around them. Would they look better if their owners painted them in reds and yellows? Would they be envious of these shining ceramic cows, forever in middle of a garden. Perhaps not, here in Europe they risk being served on a plate.

Colourful ceramic cows, Vienna, Austria - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Colourful ceramic cows, Vienna, Austria - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Colourful ceramic cows, Vienna, Austria - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Colourful ceramic cows, Vienna, Austria - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

***

Monday, 9 May 2005

Tourist-guide in Bologna

Last year was really good. Writing the book, working on the web page, months of writing and creating without feeling tired, all the online courses exhibitions, etc. on the AIFO web page.. Then suddenly one day, the energy seemed to disappear. The days pass meaningless. Lost in translation, don't know what that means exactly, but it sounds right.

Suddenly this desire to write is back. Not the crazy energy that poured out all the time. More tired energy. Wonder, how long it would last. Had a look at new blog pages at Blogger.com, where Mukul has his blog. I like the colours of Mukul's blog. But how many blogs are there about confused thoughts, random thoughts, wandering thoughts, fragments, confusion.. So many persons not knowing how to express themselves and to whom!

Pam left back for London yesterday. It was real fun to have her here in Bologna. I was her tourist guide, taking her around.

It is so good to have someone who is interested in arts and history, and who does not get bored if you talk about museums, paintings and the histories of churches. Most people do not want a real tourist guide, they just want someone to point the "important" things that are worth visiting so that when they go back, they can say that they saw them and show the pictures to prove it. To have guests who are more interested in shopping malls leaves me frustrated. Pam was not like that!

She is a wonderful person. I went to meet Prof. Pampiglione with her, in his 7th floor apartment that has wonderful views of the skyline of Bologna. They were together in Mozambique thirty years ago.

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Sunday, 8 May 2005

Clouds, Triveni Kala Sangam and Farhat

I love the clouds. And the vibrant greens and dark browns of trees against the gray sky. It makes me feel like singing. And it brings back memories of long walks with Rini didi in the Janaki Devi college grounds, of the concerts of Pandit Jasraj and Bhim Sen Joshi, of the chudela dance...

Suddenly I am thinking of the first time, I heard Mehndi Hassan. His song Awargi. His voice soft and smooth like velvet. In the Triveni Kala Sangam library in Mandi House. Pinki had taken me there. Black vinyl records. The first time of hearing Prabha Atre sing, Tan man dhan tope varun. The first time of hearing Farida Khannum.


Last year when Farhat had come home for dinner, I had made her listen to Farida Khannum. She had taken the urdu book given to me by Nabeeha so many years ago and had read aloud some poems. 

She was sitting on the sofa, her face glowing with poetry. It is already one week since she died. Not even six weeks from the day they had diagnosed the tumour. This time, I hope to go home to see the kids before the next dose of chemotherapy, she had written in her last message...

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