Letter to…

Hi!

I was just passing by. They said that you should walk around the area to feel the New York vibe. Honestly, I have been going with the flow. People seem to walk in here a lot, so that’s why I chose to come in.

It’s crowded in here, and yet it’s calm. This is the calm I need, this is it. As I look around, I see a beautiful building. How could someone imagine such a beautiful building? How did they build it? How did they translate their vision into reality? Who gave them the strength to believe and the power to execute? Who else could possibly be behind such a beautiful creation? Yes, I believe in you. I know you exist. I have felt your existence and I have faith in you. I come from India, where we have branded and rebranded you in so many different forms across different religions, sects and beliefs. You are such a comfort to people when they cant relate to something, you are such an encouragement to people when they set out to do something. You are an enigma.

People convince themselves you’re just a human concept. Some people convince themselves to lead their life in a certain way because it means they are serving you. Some people believe that you, in any other form but the one familiar to them, are not you. How did you let such confusion over your identity happen?

I don’t believe you belong to any religion. You are too big to fit into the definitions that each religion spells out for you. Probably, your power was so unfathomable that people perceived you as they experienced you and decided, ‘That’s it,’. Nobody dared to question them.

Here I am- A Hindu girl, staunch believer of Ganpati, talking to you. As tourists take a guided tour, while some people kneel down and pray for peace, assurance and seek your blessing, I have decided to write to you. This is what I do best, so this is how I will communicate with you.

They say you like everyone, you love everyone. If you do, why do you give us pain? Why do you let innocent young children suffer with terminal diseases? Why do you allow us to get our hearts broken? Why do you give us the power to break someone else’s heart?

Many a times I wonder, in spite of my sense and sensibilities, why do I do things that are utterly stupid? You tell me to do these things. You make me fall but then you give me the power to get up again. You give me the opportunity to smile. You leave it up to me to do what I must with that power and opportunity. You, Mr. Whoever you are, are pretty awesome. You make us and you keep making and remaking us. You are the artiste and we are your live works of art…
For now, I choose to get inspired by this lovely church and get up. The Brooklyn Bridge is waiting to inspire me.

Btw it was nice talking to you

(written in Trinity Church, New York City)

Advertisements

And he made it happen!

‘What is it about cinema that makes you Indians go mad?’ my British friend once asked me. ‘What makes it such a religion?’

I honestly didn’t have an answer, but I felt it too. I still feel it when I buy tickets to an SRK movie or when I watch Dev D, but I can’t explain it. Maybe the answer lies in the way this industry originated, probably the madness, the passion was well sowed into it back in the days where it began.

Where did it all begin? Everybody knows Dadasaheb Phalke was the pioneer of Indian cinema. But you have to watch this story- the story of how the idea of making a moving picture (which we merrily have abbreviated to movie) completely possessed him, the story of how his vision helped establish what we today know as the largest film industry in the world. This story will make you understand and appreciate the madness of being ‘filmy’.

Harishchandrachi Factory, is a simple Marathi film that tells you the story of how Indian cinema was born. It begins in Girgaum, Mumbai on the 14th April 1911 when Dadasaheb Phalke chances upon a moving picture exhibit while running away from a keen investor. He gets so excited by the concept that he decides to go against all odds, sell his furniture, belongings etc. to explore and study this new form of art. He travels to London, acquires the equipment, learns the horrors of casting, discovers ‘method acting’, gets his wife to take on the role of developing the film, manages to release the film and when the theater is empty, the man discovers film promotions and marketing gimmicks to get the box office ringing. It’s such a thrill to see these things that we crack our heads over today, being effortlessly thought out by this one man, just out of passion and a vision.

Paresh Mokashi tells us this story in the Phalke format- simple scenes, linear narrative, jarring harmonium in the background, focusing completely on the story.This style of filmmaking could also be credited to his theater background, but that’s digressing.  It isn’t a path breaking film in terms of how it’s made. One could almost call it a docu-drama, but at the end of the film, when Phalke rejects an offer to move to London to stay back and establish filmmaking as an industry in India, you realize that the fact that you sit in this multiplex, watching this film distributed over a satellite network (a technology pioneered by Sanjay Gaekwad, an Indian) because of that one decision. I think this feeling is the reason why this film is made, and that is exactly why you must watch it.

Watch this film, for cinema, for the love of cinema and to just feel glad that it all happened. Perosnally, I can’t imagine my life without Indian films and I feel grateful to the fact that a potential investor chased Dadasaheb on 14th April 1911 and to escape this investor Dadasaheb chanced upon the tent screening moving pictures and out of curiosity, he spent 2 annas on a ticket… 2 annas well invested…

Learning is not equal to education…

This is not a review. These are random ramblings induced by the nostalgia of the horror that used to be school. The good memories of my childhood did not involve school, at all. Okay maybe the canteen but that’s it….

Though my parents firmly believed in education, they never believed in forcing education onto me or my sister. I failed in my first ever written exam in standard I and the teacher made it a point to tell my mother that I was a problem child. Mom took it upon herself to fix that, but when year after year, I managed to score and land in the scholarship class, the teachers did not stop labelling me a problem child, Mom decided something was off.  She decided to let me be but told me that I had to endure these subjects I hated just up to the tenth standard, because that’s how it works.

Soon enough, my sister came to school and she went through the same hell as I did. Mom, who was a little wiser let her be, until it came to a point where it started to worry her. We were obviously apprehended every time we scored single digit marks, but we were always encouraged to pursue what we liked. But even so, the lack of marks entailed failure, and that felt horribly wrong. It brought down our spirits and trust me, we did feel miserable. Those who scored 99 on 100 in maths or science were heroes and those like my sister, who might just about scrape maths but write a brilliant essay, were useless. Hell, once a teacher cut my marks in an essay because she did not understand the Dickens reference I made! If you scored well, you were put in august company of other super scorers in the ‘merit’ division. Otherwise, you would have to rot in backward classes with the under performers. So naturally every parent wished and hoped that their kid would make it into the merit class. As soon as I passed out, my sister changed schools to go to a better school. Though there were no merit divisions here, the school was swarming with problem teachers. While my teachers had asked my kundali to be reviewed for my grahadasha to find the problem behind my restlessness, the sister’s teachers said she had no hope of passing maths.

The sister has only scored distinctions in exams since she found a joy in learning which lead to her discovering the subject she loved (she went to 90 percent boss, eat that!) and she is now pursuing a Post Graduate diploma in one of the best advertising schools in the US. But of course, this will hold no value to that teacher who believed that if you are not a doctor or an engineer, your life was a failure. That woman, and many like her are the engineers of failure. She is a system checks that make the following quote, a fact.
‘I was born a genius, education ruined me’

So when Mahesh Manjarekar, in his controversially titled film, ‘Shikshanachya Aicha Gho!’ raises a question, ‘Who are you to decide who’s a failure or who’s a success on the basis of marks?’ I want to applaud him. When he questions the system, and says that it kills the joy of learning, I want to yell out, I agree.

It’s time we looked at education as something that creates, not something that manufactures. Of course, IB schools are around to change that, but these IB schools come at a price tag in the range of lakhs, completely out of the common man’s reach. Isn’t it time we did something about the fact that schools are getting more and more competitive? Or are we going to wait until a couple more 12 year olds commit suicide?

And if education can make a 12 year old feel like death is better, then truly, ‘Ya Shikshanachya Aicha Gho!’

Judaai Is Not The End of Pyaar

My dad’s friends’ love stories always amuse me. Some of them started dating whilst in college and stuck to their relationship even as they travelled to different cities to pursue their careers, post grad degrees and all that. ‘They didn’t even have telephones back then, letters were their only hope,’ says Dad. ‘Besides, breaking up was not an option for them. They had decided already that this person was their life partner. They did what they had to and made it work!’ And mind you. There were no mobile phones, no pagers, and no email back in their day. ‘People didn’t even have telephones, you had to go to the neighbours’ if you wanted to make a call’ Dad tells me.

Next morning my phone goes frantic. SOS messages. ‘I think I am getting dumped,’ one message says.
‘She’s moving to UK, I am breaking up!’ another message says. Wow! Last night’s gyaan is totally out of date, I tell myself as I get out of bed. Most of my friends, me included, strongly believe that long distance relationships are just not worth the effort.

‘My girlfriend went to Singapore for her masters and within 3 months all I had left was astronomical phone bills, crazy amount of time wasted on the computer, cartloads of angst and a dysfunctional relationship,’ says Mr. J. Add to it, facebook made it prominent that his girl was busy but with parties and fun outings. ‘If a guy flirted with my girl when she was here in Mumbai, I wouldn’t give a damn but a picture with a guy randomly putting his arm around her on facebook pisses me off now that she’s so far away!’ he adds. They finally broke it off because their relationship started becoming a liability.

‘There’s no point of being in it if everything about your relationship bothers you. Not having your guy around to hug you, to tell you it’ll be alright is just not cool. I miss him, but I don’t miss the online fights. I’m glad it’s over,’ says Mr. J’s girlfriend.

Kinda paints a bleak picture about long distance, doesn’t it? As Ashish Chand accurately puts it, for many people a long distance relationship is the kiss of death. Ashish firmly believes that they can work, however, this is conditional. ‘If you’ve just met someone and the relationship goes long distance, it’s going to fail. At this stage you crave for each other. You want to be physically close. But if you’ve gotten over the clingy phase, there is hope in spite of the distance,’ he explains.

Poo, a self-confessed commitment phobic agrees with Ashish and thinks that long distance relationships just get a lot of bad PR, ‘Long distance isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. If you are someone who values your space, it can be a boon.’

Of course, Poo firmly believes that in addition to constantly reassuring your partner of your love, you have to have mutual trust and the ability to be very open with your partner (which is where the Js failed) ‘With email, chat, skype and other such tech innovations, long distance is definitely possible!’

But what happens when you’ve had a bad day and all you want is a hug from your partner or when you miss them so bad, you can’t take it?

‘It takes a lot of time and patience,’ says RV who believes that one has to invest a lot of time and emotion to make up for time apart. Much like V had to.

‘Knowing that the long distance was only for a couple of months, made it easy. I missed him like crazy at times. Sometimes, it got so bad I almost thought of ending it, but then I’d remind myself of the big picture. You love this person enough to want to be with them? Then the long distance is just a hurdle you have to cross…’ says V. She is now married to the guy, so yeah, she crossed the hurdle.

If your partner is in the same country as you at least you are in the same time zone. Honey had to battle a transatlantic time-zone war to keep her relationship going. This essentially meant that when she slept, her guy was awake and vice-versa. ‘We both were sure we wanted it to work. Ending it was not an option.  We web-cammed, shared filmy music, shayari and photographs to reassure each other. If you want to make it work, you can,’ she explains. She also thinks that observing her parents, who shared a LDR for a while, has taught her that the distance can actually work in the favour of the relationship. It can make you independent, strong and it can teach you the value of the much spoken about ‘space’ between couples. ‘It is not for the weak hearted, though. You will spend a lot of time away from your partner and that takes strength,’ she warns.

In conclusion, if you really love this person and the idea of long distance is bogging you down, think again. Give it a shot, it’s worth it. And finally, based on the yapping I did on twitter, here are three things you should focus on.

1.    Be strong. Remind yourself of the big picture and be ready to do what it takes to make it work.

2.    Keep communication channels open. This will reduce misunderstandings and reassure your partner of your sincerity

3.    Use technology. Skype, email, IM etc are free. They will reduce your phone bills!
And yeah, good luck, I say!

PS: SMSers I hope you guys give it a shot. This one’s for you

Happy Birthday, Mariam…

There’s a thrill when you make a major change and land up in an alien environment. You don’t know how things are going to be, you don’t even know if you will deal with them. I was always told that people around you give you the strength to work through that uncertainty. They infuse you with energy, inspiration and no matter how alien or bleak the environment they’ll tell you that there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

Luckily enough, I have always had people like that around me. But I left them all behind and landed in UK. From being a confident Mumbai girl, I was the latest export from India, a meek, lost girl in the Queen’s land. I’d spent a week with the Kale family but as I drove down to the uni with my family, I started feeling that knot in my tummy. I was scared. I had never lived on my own, I had never been so far away from my friends and I had never ever been friendless. Well, not since high-school, but let’s not go there.

As the car wove through the University of Sussex campus, I was bright eyed and as we located my residences I was nervous as hell. Making friends from scratch, fending for myself, cooking, cleaning and studying all by myself and in addition to that, homesickness. I wasn’t unprepared. I had been warned by many, but it was happening now. This was real. I took a few deep breaths and told myself I’ll be ok. We pulled up right behind a car. A  girl got out of the car. I had never seen her before and yet there was something very familiar about her face, something very comforting. She smiled looking towards the residences and I saw hope.

I got off the car and continued to stare at her. Will she be a friend? Will she be in my school? Will she be…
‘Hi are you studying here?’ I heard my cousin ask.
She nodded, that smile fixed on her lips and excitement dripping from every corner of her face.
‘My cousin’s doing her MA from here. Meet Shakti,’ he introduced me…
She shook my hand, ‘Hi, I’m Mariam. I’m doing MA in Critical Theory. And you?’
There was warmth in her voice. And I replied that I was doing my MA in creative writing and she could critique my work. In my head, I thought, WTF are you saying? I realised this was going to be awkward, making new friends. But then she laughed at my stupid joke and I felt like all be ok.

Little did I know that this girl, the first person I met on the campus, would end up being such a close friend! Mariam Zia, this bundle of energy, hails from Lahore, Pakistan. She’s one of the people I treasure. At times, a mere ‘hi’ here and there tells her what’s going on in my head. She’s like this elder sister who’ll watch out for me, who’ll patiently listen to me whining and then bring a smile to my face. She is the reason why I loved my novel as much as I did.

At Sussex, I made my own family. They were and are still pillars of strength in my life (I know I never email or keep in touch, but they continue to be my strength) Mariam happens to be one of the closest to me. Mariam and Shefali helped me grow up; they helped me be me as I grew up. Of course, Shef deserves a blogpost of her own but Mariam, this one’s for you.

Our countries can’t see eye to eye and yet we see each other to the depth of our souls. My calls or SMS wouldn’t go through to her, we all know why. She lives in Lahore. On her birthday, I couldn’t hear her voice, I couldn’t tell her how much I loved her, all because our countries are constantly at loggerheads. Our friendship is very special to me on an individual level, yes, but I also know that it is symbolic. It is symbolic of the fact that beyond that border, we share a similar culture, similar values. And if we have enough love in our hearts to give and enough room in our hearts to receive, we can share a lovely relationship. I should be able to take a flight and go see Mariam. She should be able to get on a bus and come see me, but we can’t. I haven’t seen Mariam in 4 years. Last time I saw her, we were freezing at Trafalgar Square, right outside National Gallery and we held each other tight. We promised to see each other soon in our respective home cities. We continue to promise each other that even as relations between our countries have turned more and more hostile. In the end what matters is that our friendship, our love has continued to grow strong. And no matter how many of my SMS or phone calls get blocked or however difficult it gets to see Mariam, I just need to close my eyes and I see her. She is in my heart.

Happy birthday, Mariam Aapa (big sistah!) Tum jeeyo hazaron saal, saal ke din ho pachas hazaar. May all your dreams come true, may all the happiness in the world be yours and may you live a long life. And we will see each other soon, I mean it!

On your birthday, words are all I have… So here’s to you, thank you for being in my life…
P.S: Mariam, do you notice the excess use of ellipses? It’s because words, they’ll never be enough…

Yehi Hai Write Choice Baby, A-ha!

Enough random thinking. It will still continue, but from today, the blog will see posts about creating my second novel. I plan to do the following things by the year end:

  1. Be brutally honest about myself, to myself:

Satyadev Dubey once told me over a cup of chai at MIG club, ‘Lie to the world, but don’t ever make the mistake of lying to yourself,’ It’s about time I took that advice seriously. I am honest with myself but to put it down in words is to crystalize it, frame it up and make it permanent. I am not going to be scared of it.

 

  1. Delete the delete:

Negative self- image might help me improve and all, but the negativity about my own work makes me destroy most of the things that I write. From now on, delete does not exist. I will write, and however crappy I think my writing, I will revisit it later and craft it to reduce its level of mediocrity.

 

  1. Worker harder on the hard work:

Working hard is simply not enough. I will work harder at working harder.

 

  1. Reflections can be beautiful:

Maintain a writers’ journal so I can reflect on the process of writing.

 

  1. Share:

Being nervous about sharing my work is bad for my health. And a lady with bitten nails doesn’t exactly look gorgeous. It’s my work, I will share it. So what if someone hates it!

 

  1. Do Doddle Do:

I am always guilty of talking rather than doing. I won’t just write these things, I will do them.

Off to start with the second novel. To piece together silly little pieces of the puzzle I have strewn across the different corners of my mind. To piece them together, to bring alive each character and to be the schizophrenic writer I love being. I am off to be restless, to explore where the story goes and where it comes from, to feel the pulse of each character and to be haunted, consumed and bewildered by the story I want to tell. And my readers, darlings, you have a choice, to be involved in this mad mad mad journey over the next God knows how many days. If it sounds too boring, let me know. I’ll sneak in a fun bit or two, but I really *need* to do this. 

Let the madness begin: drumroll!

Woh 7 Weeks: End of a holiday

Past 7 weeks have been pure bliss; ups and downs included. Quality sister time, unique relationship insight (how I love my older friends!), a dash of disappointment, blistered feet, emptied bank balances, crazy credit card bills, tons of food, serving portions I can only dream of finishing, jeans feeling a bit too snug, not fretting about the weight, the beach, pride, inspiration and more than anything LOVE.

7 weeks have passed since I left Mumbai, all starry eyed. And now I shuttle out to Miami airport sobbing. Yeah, you heard me right. I am grateful for all the madness of the past 7 weeks. I sobbed because my sister (she never really was a baby sister) is independent and brave, far braver than I could ever be. Here I was leaving for India, why did it feel like I had forgotten something, someone? The truth is I was leaving behind a big chunk of my heart in Miami.
I hate that I am early at the airport (paranoid as I am, I am always early!) Check-in and security checks, all taken care of, I still have another two and a half hours to kill. I could either brood over how much I was going to miss my sister or see pictures and giggle with glee about the lovely times we had exploring her city with her, going to Disney world or while battling bed bugs (bed bugs was not fun but hey, I m trying to see the glass half full here!)
I could sit and smile about the fun times I had in New York with Roger, Baa and Tarlet. I could think about what an adventure it was discovering what I didn’t want from a relationship… There, I started again. So much happened on the past 7 weeks that I *almost* feel like a whole new person. Okay, I’m exaggerating but, I do feel like Shakti Salgaokar version 8.0.

I’ve fallen in love with solitude and lost my heart to a city. I love Paris, London and Barcelona. But New York, I think we are headed for a serious relationship and imagine the mess that’s going to be when Mumbai finds out!
And yet, I am back to the city I call home. Despite its pollution, dufus governance (the Frenchman working on Mumbai waste management project on my flight brought this to my notice) I love it. There’s so much this city can be if she got the right things to work with, and yet, she sits there, making the best of whatever she’s got. New York is like the sexy woman you want to be. She’s that woman who has the perfect life. A perfect career, she looks hot, so perfect that even her problems seem perfect. Someday, I’ll come back…

And yeah, on this trip I also achieved acute spiritual maturity (yeah, right!).  And I finally figured the prophecy of one my gurus, Mr. John Lennon: Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

I’m alright to go where life takes me. No more planning. No more superficial goals. Just one principle- have fun.
Btw, Air France: thank you for being a kill joy airline. The cranky me, agrees to go through the ordeal of 19 hours on a flight for two things. Nonstop movies and eating airline food like Charlie Chaplin (dad, u r genius in discovering that simile. Yes I don’t mind airline food. It helps passtime!). Yeh modern day air travel isn’t so bad because food apparently has gotten better and inflight entertainment is supposed to be awesome. Thanks air France for not having a personal screen on my first flight from Miami to Paris and a little note: Hindu non veg meal means a non-veg meal sans beef or pork. It doesn’t mean you serve me rice, veggies and chicken with garam masala tossed on it!

Anyway, the 8 hour ordeal ended at Charles de Gaulle. And look at me, merrily Bon jour and au revoiring people like I knew French, deliberately struggling to read things in French before giving up and settling for English. Whoa! I miss Nani. The last time I was at this airport, Nani and yours truly had flown in from Barcelona on a delayed flight and missed our connecting flight to London. The lady who reissued our boarding cards, issued a wrong one for Nanchan and I put up a classic performance, being the drama queen I am, and got Nani bumped up to business class.
Such funny incidents happen when me and Nani set off to explore the world. ‘Be nice to your siblings,’ is an underrated line from the Sunscreen Song. Love your siblings, pour your soul into them, because trust me, other than your parents they are the only people who know you, your past, your whims, your fancies, your strengths and weaknesses and yet love you like no one else will. My sibling is a part of me, a part of who I am and what I am. I realise this after years of sibling rivalry, friendship, arguments, fights and much more.

So yeah, Nano, this one’s for you. Love life so much that you can be a 70 year old who can tell tales of her life and amuse people by the sheer presence of life in them!
And in case u want assistance, who u gonna call?