Monday, 26 September 2005

Fascinated by Motorbikes

I am fascinated by motorbikes. I am also afraid of them. I love to watch them. I like the idea of speeding on them with the wind flattening my hair. Whoooooooooom. But since I am afraid, so I'va never actually driven one. I am convinced that if I get on one, I am going to have an accident and end up with broken legs or worse.

Yesterday, we were in Como. Manish had come from Delhi for an overnight stay and was going to catch a flight for Spain from Milan. So we accompanied him to Milan and then went on to Como for a walk along the lake. It was wonderful, cold in the shadows, barely warm under the sun, with crowds thronging the path going along the lake.

Laura told us that George Clooney has asked the permission to clean the beach in front of his house (or rather houses, since he has bought three villas).

They say Bard Pitt is going to get married to Angelina Jolie in one of those houses of Clooney in the next spring (if they manage to stick around till then!). Any way, Clooney is a favorite with the locals - he brings all the tourists from USA, they say. And tourists, may be noisy and dirty, but they mean business. Plus people can brag about meeting Julia Roberts or Madonna, buying apples and organges at the local subziwalla.

Along the river, in one of the villas, there was an exhibition of old motorbikes. Tha villa had a lovely sculpture called Medusa, dedicated to Giorgio Armani. In between the old statues there were old bikes. Bikes from fifties, sixties and seventies. Old Harley Davidsons and Ducatis. With men walking around as if in a dream, looking at the bikes with such wonder and rapture, sure to make their girl friends jealous. Perhaps imagining themsleves as Jeames Dean or Marlon Brando.

Bikes have that power. Even prince Williams had got himself photographed with a motorbike a la Marlon Brando for his 21st birthday. Last week in London all newspapers had that picture.

Here are some images of the lakeside in Como, including some from the vintage motorbike exhibition.

Como lakeside and vintage motorbikes - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Como lakeside and vintage motorbikes - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Como lakeside and vintage motorbikes - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Como lakeside and vintage motorbikes - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Como lakeside, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Como lakeside, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Como lakeside, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Como lakeside, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Como lakeside, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Como lakeside, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

Como lakeside, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005


Sunday, 18 September 2005

Back to London

Came back yesterday evening from London. I was curious to see if the bombs have changed the city. Yes, almost everyone I asked, agreed that the city has changed, but I couldn't see the changes.

They said, there is no night life, nobody goes out in central London. Perhaps, Hammersmith is too far away from the centre but at 10 PM the restaurants seemed full, people were there in the bar inspite of the typical English rain. Even the tube was full as usual. But the train and tube services seemed to have worsened. Stansted express was a scandal. The publicity is hyperbolic as usual but the train seemed like a local train in Mumbai. Stopped every five minutes. The whole tube system seems to be coming apart at the seams. Bomb scares, maintainance, staff shortage, all the possible problems seem to plague it.

Yet outside on the streets, people were rushing around as usual. Tourists speaking different languges with their cameras clicking furiously seemed unchanged. I walked in the Banks area, and it seemed much nicer than when I was there 10 years ago. There were flowers every where. Sparkling new buildings with strange shapes, futuristic pubs in glasswalled structures, it looked wonderful.

I always stay in the same place. Must have stayed in that hotel for fifty times at least. The old staff knows me very well. It seems to have worsened too. Must be cutting costs. The breakfast is a pale shadow of its past and the timings are restricted. In the room, the hair dryer and pants-pressing machine are both out of order. The telephone does not work too. May be someone else would buy that hotel and improve it? It changes names and owners, the prices increase and services improve, then slowly, every thing comes down. Perhaps, its location is not good so that it does not get enough clients?

I remember the time there when they had found an IRA terrorist staying in that hotel. I had woken up during the night after a noise and switching on the light, I had looked out of the window. The hotel was surrounded by police with guns in their hands. They must have looked at me with amazement, nude with just wearing my undies, standing near the window, lighted from behind! My heart thumping, I had switched off the light and crawled back into the bed, waiting for the guns to start shooting.

Or the time when a car allarm had gone off around 11 PM and gone on and on for 4 hours, till its battery had exhausted. Couldn't believe that in London, there was no police or someone to trace the owner of a car to make it shut up and it had continued to make terrible noise in a thickly populated residential area for four head-aching hours. Worse than all the jagratas combined in Delhi.

This time, there was a fight. It must have been from one of the houses at the back of the hotel. Woke up in the morning listening to the women shouting, "Leave the house, leave, ....leave". Seemed like an old record stuck on the word "leave". At first couldn't hear the man. Then slowly the fight heated. 'Fuck offs' and 'sons of bitches' flew around till the woman started shouting, "Get off me, let me go. I don't want you. Leave me. Let me go now." Then suddenly there was silence. Probably he had strangled her. Or may be, he had picked his things and left. Who knows. Or, may be she had hit his head with a broom. I hope they don't call me as a witness.

My last image of London is that of a banner at the airport. It was the publicity of a bank. "24 hours service. Real people from UK answer you." Means, no Indian call centre here!


Tuesday, 13 September 2005

A sterile world?

Growing up in India, you automatically learn that you are a small part of a large world, where all beings have a place.

Jain munis with clothe on their mouths, women giving food to the ants, Nandi bull sitting in front of the temple and the cows sitting in the middle of the road, all give you that same message. Perhaps that is why, I get disturbed when I see publicity that seems to imply that if you really want your home to be clean or if you really care about your child, buy this detergent powder or this floor cleaning liquid, because these will kill the bacteria.

I can't understand, why do we need to kill bacteria? Don't bacteria live inside our own bodies and are necessary for life since they produce important vitamins? Don't bacteria surround us every where and can they be actually killed just by washing your clothes or cleaning the kitchen floor with antiseptic lotions? Perhaps, I should not worry since these are only publicity gimmicks?

I think that this kind of publicity gives a wrong message. Improper use of antibiotics, has given rise to resistent bacteria, and there are some that can't be killed by any thing. But worse than that, this kind of publicity gives the message that it is all right to manipulate the nature because somehow we would be better off in an artificial world, controlled temperatures, controlled environment, artificial every thing.

I would say that we need to boicott these - not to buy products that say they kill bacteria. Sales and profits is the only language companies and marketing experts understand.


Monday, 12 September 2005

Four years ago

Yesterday, I didn't even remember that it was 11 September, anniversary of the New York attacks. I had a board meeting yesterday morning and I was thinking about that. It was also a friend's birthday, so I was reminding myself to send her greetings. And I was thinking about the peace march that covers 28 kms from the city of Perugia to Assisi.

It was only after the meeting, after lunch and after the afternnon nap, that Nadia told me that they were showing a Chinese film on the TV. I love Chinese films. She said that it was about children lving near a brick kiln.

I had immediately hoped that it was the film where Gong Li plays the mother of a deaf child. I had seen it on TV in China but since it was in Chinese, I hadn't followed it properly. But the film on the TV was about a teacher wearing a chador, trying to explain to nursery kids about bombings in New York and when children could not understand the meaning of "tower", she took them out to look at the chimney of the brick kiln.

It was that film where different directors have made short films on the theme of 11 September. The Isreali film was about a suicide bomber and a journalist who wants her story.

Mira Nair's film is about Salim, an American born in Pakistan, and the film was called "Terrorist".

"The exiled man" from Chile, was bitter about the American double standards.

The director from Lebanon has made his film about a dead American marine, his lebanese girl friend and a Palestinian suicide bomber.

The dream of boys in the film from Burkina Faso is to catch Osama Bin Laden and get 24 million dollars' award.

But my favorite film was about the deaf French girl, who has a fight with her boyfriend in New York, and is hoping for a miracle.

My own memories of that 11 September 4 years ago, seem an episode from the same film. The waiting at Milan airport, shopkeepers suddenly closing their shops and running away, the unbelievable images on the TV in the bar, my cancelled flight to Beirut, the journey back to Bologna and all the while, thinking about my mother who was travelling to Washington DC that morning. Her flight was diverted to somewhere in Canada and for few days, no body could tell where she was.


Saturday, 10 September 2005

John Grisham in Bologna

The well known american writer, known mainly for his legal thrillers, John Grisham was in Bologna yesterday, to receive a special award from the mayor of the city. The function was organised in Santa Lucia hall of the Bologna university. The thousand years old hall, that looks like the dining hall from the Harry Potter films, was an ex-old church.

It must have been a rare experience for Grisham to be surrounded by accademics, including the dean of university and a professor of American literature, talking about his "writings". Even if his books have sold 200 million copies around the world, including 10 million books in Italy, no one pretends that he writes "literature". I don't think often people take his name next to Mark Twain or Charles Dickens like it happened in Bologna!

His new book, "The Broker" is based in Bologna. It is the first time Grisham has come out of the American counties, placing his book outside America. He explained that he needed a small, not too touristy town, where his spy hero could hide and the decision to make him come to Bologna was just by chance. He came here for the first time in July 2004 to look for places where his novel will be based, and fell in love with the city, its people and the food.

It must be admitted though that Grisham was suitably modest and ironical in a self-deprecating manner. "I was the best selling author in the world", he said, "till Harry Potter came along." He was asked if the fact that most of his books are turned into films, has affected the way he writes his novels now, he answered, "My writing was always simple, straight forward, one scene leading to next, no complexity, that is very similar to films. I haven't changed that. When I start writing, I already know what is going to happen in my book, from beginning to the end."

About the movies based on his books he said that not all the movies are good and he can't have the control over those movies, at least not as much as he would like. He also mentioned about the screenplay he had written about a minor league of basball (he is passionate about baseball) and when he did not find any producer, he produced it himself. "This film was never released properly in USA nor in the world, no body ever saw it", he said, "it came out in DVD and no body is buying the DVDs. It was a foolish decision."

He did not seem very enthusiastic about Mr. Bush and lamented the increasingly shrinking space for freedom of expression in America. While he was speaking, thunder broke out and he gave a start and then laughed saying that ever since Katerina in New Orleans, he is worried about thunderstorms.

In the pictures below, you can also see the Mayor of Bologna, Mr. Cofferati, giving the special recognition award to John Grishem for basing his new book, "The Broker" in Bologna.

John Grisham, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

John Grisham, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

John Grisham, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2005

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