April 27, 2006

Dancing tracks

At last, I've found the time to blog ! The past one week has been particularly crazy.....working in a newspaper can be weird at times....when you are sent out to cover events that never make the news and you wonder why you wasted a good afternoon's sleep.

I went to Nrityagram again, last Sunday, this time by bus, and then, I had quite a bit of an adevnture. It was pure fun and very safe. I didn't really see what was dangerous about it.

Aprt from that, I attended a dance programme, the 10th anniversary of Natya STEM Dance Kampni and their celebrations for World Dance Day. Their works were pretty interesting, good concepts and all. They had a collaborative effort with painter Raghava KK, where he painted on-stage with the dancers. But....their very first piece, a Kathak duet by Aparna Kolar and Madhu Nataraj Heri, didn't seem very synchronised and didn't flow the way I expected it to.

I don't like to mince my words and I'm going to take the risk of saying that Bangalore rhas no good Odissi dancers (Nrityagram is brilliant, and that is WAY ABOVE GOOD !!!). Apart from NG, there are just two of them, and both of them try to outdo each other in terms of bad taste and no sense of aesthetics and horrendous movement. NG is on tour for around 6 months of the year, and it seems when these people have to call an Odissi performer, they have to resort to one of the two. So, they have something like a monopoly out here. They do not care for adequate oractice and proper presentation because they know they will be called anyway.

Let me go into the details. The first dancer's performance had costumes in all colours that clashed horribly with each other. The troupe was very unsure about the movements. They were not even technically perfect. Their basic postures could have done with a lot of shaping-up. During the mangalacharan, the dancers couldn't even sit in chowk properly. I still remember how I almost cried when this dancer performed to the Oriya song Ahenilo sohilo by Salbeg, which generally moves me to tears. Only here, I wanted to cry because she was mutilating the song very badly.

The second performance I saw was a solo, Dasavatara to be precise. When the dancer strode onto stage like a general at war, to announce her performance, I knew what was coming. She had absolutely no sense of timing, and did not pay any attention to presentation. She just came and plonked her butt on stage and started off. Her hair, ok, now Jhelumtai has curly hair which is generally all over the place, but she still manages to make it FLAT when she's dancing. This chick had very manageable hair that looked like it had not been washed in decades. Oiling it a little would have made it much more decent-looking. Her pallu was draped in this very weird manner......costume wearing is always this big point of contention for me, I can't stand people who do not wear a costume properly. Her tribhanga was far from perfect, and at the risk of sounding immodest, I can say that the tribhangas of me and the rest of my friends are way better. She did not sit in chowk for certain sequences, she was very miserly in her use of kajal, her pushpachuda really looked undernourished and starved.....all the flowers twisted and lots of holes in between.

It is sad, really sad, that so many good dancers never get the opportunity to get their due, and sub-standard dancers like these come up and do very well. I have nothing against these dancers, but I don't see why they should take advantage of the situation and absolutely refrain from polishing themselves.

One more thing - that day, a dancer just told me how the 'visibility' in Bombay and Delhi is good. I had a good laugh while telling her the hard facts. The Bangalore audience is very appreciative of classical dance, and programmes never go unattended. Most of all, people behave themselves during the performance. The publicity also seems to be good...but that may also be because I'm working with a paper and end up hearing about everything. In Bombay, one hardly hears of performances, it is just plays and movies all the way. I have seen prominent 'well-behaved' members of society walk out in the middle of performances at NCPA's experimental theatre, if I got the name right, since it is impossible to walk out of there without walking on the stage. When Leesa Mohanty and Durga Charan Ranbir ji performed in Bombay, the audience started hooting 'sari giri', ( the sari has fallen down) when Leesadi's unstitched sari looked like it was about to unravel. I sat night after night and watched performances by maestros like Kanak Rele and Gangadhar Pradhan go practically unattended during the Sur Singar Samsad fest.So much for the visibility in Bombay...

Bollywood Hungama Odissi Ishtyle has received a lot of attention lately. I've been talking to various dancers in Bangalore about it. Many of them appreciated Jhelumtai's foray into Bollywood ( pun unintended !), but one of them was very upset that a dancer of her stature resorted to something like this. The person in question felt it was very unaesthetic to mix Bollywood and Odissi. We could not have a proper argument since she kept saying I was defensive because the work of my Guru was in question. It was not really a subjective thing on my part, if I don't like something and even if someone I directly interact with is responsible for that, I would say so. But, in this case, I loved the idea of Bollywood Odissi and I thought it was simply brilliant. And after all, who defines what is aesthetic and what is not? Aesthetics are something that depend on an individual's perception and are not a set of rules that say what is innovative and what is not. Or what is 'fusion' and what is a 'mess'.

I've also heard dancers who indulge in the 'contemporary' monkey business (well, I am not against contemporary dance, but I'm just waiting to see how far dancers take their pretentiousness). Anyway, these dancers talk about how their contemporary work comes from the heart, is full of truth and passion and other such flowerily ludicrous things, and also about how other dancers just thing jumping around in a different costume and mixing a few movements here and there is contemporary. I mean, if it is all about the heart, then it is possible that jumping around in a different costume touches someone's heart, while someone else loves somersaulting on stage, while someone else takes 25 minutes to come out from intense position to the next while one person sweeps the stage with flowing costumes that seem to be ads for cleanliness and civic sense, and so on.

Point is, every single dancer worth the d in the 'dancer' has his or her own ideas on what is beautiful and divine and so on. I don't think this science of speculation should be codified and given a repertoire to go with it. One can experiment, praise or pan. But that's about it. When people begin defining the world code for aesthetics, it gets to me.

April 19, 2006

News and views - A patchwork quilt from Bangalore.

Patchwork quilt because it's a mixture of various things.

Today, I had this sorely Kannadiga guy attempting to say sing some obscene 'Hello' song in English. I really felt like stopping by and teaching him the alphabet. Anyway, forget these disadvantaged dumbasses( disadvantaged....because they don't seem to know any girls to satisfy their .....carnal desires....dumbasses...because, well, that's what they are).

Anyway, hey wait, I forgot what I wanted to write on ! Yea, basically, we went to this place yesterday for dinner, called Isys or something like that. More than salivating my way through the menu, I was interested in reading what they had to say about themselves. It was something on the lines of......Welcome to Isys.... exotic and romantic.....most sensual dining experience you will ever have.......our staff are trained to anticipate your every need etc etc. My, talk of being corny to the point of being horny !!

My Kannada repertoire is increasing.....by leaps and bounds. I can say ondhumukkal and eradamukkal now.

There's a protest at IISc. on the 21st, against their use of monkeys for tests. Please attend if you are in Bangalore and wish to support the cause.

What is the height of being embarassed?
Ans: Having someone come out of the loo and say they heard you singing and where do you learn from and that this is not the first time they've heard your lovely voice, the last time they did you were in the loo and so on...and why the hell are you in journalism when you can sing and dance.....all this while poor me is still wondering if this is all for real and silently cursing the earth because it doesn't seem to want to open up and swallow me.

I've started having early lunches so that I don't lose my luchichance ! Is good for my stomach too, you see. There is this waiter out there, who makes this amusing ceremony of pouring water into a glass or singling out ONE napkin to hand over to you while you are in the middle of dreaming what it would be like if you were born in a sea of gulab jamuns.

April 17, 2006

Bangalore Khabri Times

Buses, and now autos. Wait. Before I go on, a clarification. Don't call me a spolit Bombay kid because I always seem to have something to say about this place called Bang-a-lore. Anyway, yesterday was a Sunday, and since I had work to do, I decided to go to work. And I ended up at Central College to cover this Kavi Sammelan thing. Where the Hon. Governor, whose name was unknown to the policemen guarding him, arrived. In a brown suit. Which he wore again to a convocation today. Dirty boy !!!

When I was done with my work there, I had to go back to office, and it was nearly 7:30 pm. I made futile attempts to wave down an auto....but alas !!! So, I came walking till Vidhana Soudha, waving my hand in an attempt to catch an auto all the while. At Vidhana Soudha, I met this guy, and I told him my destination - St. Mark's Road, which was like, the minimum fare type. He says, "Dye-Fee-Nyet-Lee Maddam. Farty Rupees." And I was like, you think I'm a fool who just landed on a magic carpet in front of Vidhana Soudha ? I walked resolutely ahead, and finally found an auto. Where ? Minsk Square. That is almost next to St. Mark's Road, but anyway, I was too tired to walk.

These auto guys are such cartoons. It's very surprising they have the gall to go around in rickshaws that clearly say - If auto driver demands excess fare, report to nearest police station. (Not that I'm going to drive him to Kammanahalli or someplace as far as that to report an offence at MG Road). In Indian terminology, Agar wo gadha jyaada piasa maange, to use joote maar maar kar bhagakar use police thane le aao. ie: If that donkey asks you for more money, beat him up and drag him to the police station.

Otherwise.....KC Das seems to facing a Luchi shortage. I love that place now, and I invariably have lunch there, except when I'm force-fed at one of those press meets. But for the past two days, I've been going to KC Das and asking for luchis, and they tell me - Luchi is not there madam. Which is quite infuriating. Especially when your dreams during some boring speech begin with luchis and end with gulab jamoon. Today, I had to have lunch at this Airlines hotel which has passable chana-bhatura. They had pav-bhaji on the menu and I asked for it, only to be told it was not there.

Talking of pav-bhaji, the office canteen had what I thought were bondas for tea, but they turned out to be ersatz for batat-vada ! I can make better vadas (and my cooking skills extend to stirring Maggi for two minutes after the water has been poured in by someone else), but they were a good reminder.

Starting tomorrow, ISKCON has this array of cultural programmes which I can cover, including performances of Yakshagana, Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kathak. Cool, ain't it?

April 15, 2006

April 14, 2006

10 freewheeling days in Bangalore

I've completed 10 days in this place, and I must say, I do feel a bit bored at times, but I'm also having the time of my life. The sense of independence which co-incidentally coincided with my turning 18 was cool. I'm discovering more and more of this city every day, and it is great fun to do so.

I've also noticed that I'm walking around a lot more than usual in Bangalore. I go walking along all the arterial roads of the city, thus burning away the sin of having two sumptuous calorie-filled gulab jamuns or rossogollas after lunch. Compared to Bombay, where the heat and exhaustion gets to me, here, I travel light and manage to do a lot more.

One more weird thing I've noticed is - Since this city is quite compact from one end to the other, people tend to magnify distances, and consequently, a 5 km drive seems really lonnggg ! A few days ago, I visited a hospital in this place called Hebbal for an assignment, which is on the outskirts of the city for your information. It was a 20 minute drive from the city centre, and the other journalists with me got quite restless. And methinks, what's the big deal ?? Heck, this is hardly 20 minutes, and these guys are acting crazy. Since I travel around 45 kms this way and that to college and back every day, all the fuss seemed quite unwarranted to me.

Recently, I had to complete the movie listing chart for the newspaper, and I had to call up all these seedy single screen theatres too, where people went on and on in Kannada, that is as alien as UFO sightings are to me. BY the way, I've never seen a UFO all my life. I tried telling many of these guys - Ninna Kannada Gottilla, which I thought was " I don't know Kannada", and quite a few seemed very irrItated with and some even banged the phone down. After a while, I realised that meant "You don;t know Kannada.", which was quite a BIG BLOOPER.

I've done some interesting, funny and boring assignments here. I particularly remember the hospital one, wher the Chairman of the hospital categorically stated how he planned to afflict patients through his new specialty clinic.

Then there was a boring essay competition where they had this meaningless play in which an almond is the saviour. We journalists almost tried to stage a walkout, but they thankfully ended on time.....I basically wanted to reach in time for the yummy sambar in the office canteen that closes at 5:30 pm.

And we had this education fair, where the educational consultant whom we interviewed was near servile, and almost fell at our feet at one point.

Also, a video-conference with the finalists of Indian idol, where NC Karunya admitted that he was missing the variety of pickles from Andhra, and where I asked him to mail the hot dog he was trying to eat, to me, since I was really thirsting for Bombay fast food.

The Kannada actor Rajkumar passed away two days back and I didn't really understand why my uncle asked me to return home asap, until I actually came home and saw them tearing down stuff around my office area on TV. It seems he was a brilliant actor and a brilliant person, and he definitely had a lot of fans. The government declared a two-day holiday for all government offices, schools, colleges etc.

April 09, 2006

A tryst with a kid

Today, I went to meet my mother's brother and his family. His daughter recently gave birth and basically I didn't even know the kid's name. This was just meant to be one of those family obligations that are dispensed with.

This kid, Poorvi, is my first niece. I imagined she would be like most one-year-olds - sleepy, scared, cranky....But...I was WRONG !!! A pint sized bundle of energy comes somersaulting into a sleepy and desolate Banashankari bungalow. With a beatific smile on her face, Poorvi happily grabbed the gifts I'd brought for her, thrust it into her father's lap, and happily continued playing with her 'panda' and ball and bat.

Some perfunctory attempts were made to get her to call me 'aunty', which did not work, and she soon settled down to 'akka', which means elder sister in Kannada. In a while, she was all over me. I'm not exactly an angel myself, and I was the only one who seemed to support her out of the house mischief, so we joined hands to have some fun. Very soon, we were play-driving a Kinetic, scrambling onto the roof of the car and swinging the plants hanging from the ceiling, and doing countless other things, while her mom looked on with an air of resignation.

Then....it was time to part. Poorvi and her mother accompanied me home. In the car, she was busy turning the roof into one big percussion instrument, and trying to pull out everything that hung from the roof.

When we reached my place, she promptly started crying and screaming and making a better fuss than I ever could. Her cries shook the whole of Jayanagar, because quite a few people asked me if something was wrong....

Anyway, meeting Poorvi was an amazing experience, and I'm surely going to go back and see her. After loads of kids who only cry and squirm when taken away from their mommas, she was...DIFFERENT !! Her pulling out things and wanting to take them apart totally reminds me of the way I was in my childhood !

April 08, 2006

Bangalore: The land of lechers

In Bombay, I can return wearing anything, or maybe even nothing, at 1 am or 5 am or any damn time for that matter. Apart from the usual sickos, not many people will really stop to look at me and ogle. And least of all, wait like morons and observe me for five minutes.

Yesterday, I wore a sleeveless top to work. Body hugging and pink ! NOthing great about that in Bombay, but out here, it's evidently a very big deal. Every single male eye and a few female eyes followed my journey from the house to the bus stop. Every single member of the male species who passed by stopped to ogle at the assets hidden behind my top. One guy actually found a comfortable viewpoint a few metres away and stopped to look at me as I've I'm a stricken Mona Lisa hung in the Louvre for public observation. Unfortunately, I did not have a plexiglass shield like Mona Lisa......

After a few minutes, when I realised he was actually looking at ME for such a long time, I chased him away with all the colourful insults I knew of, Bambaiya gaalis as they are called.

The rest of the day was no better......

Cut to today: In the bus, this seemingly homo guy was busy making overtures at me and the absolutely petrified lady sitting next to me. He leaned over her in this strange manner, till I had to shove him aside with a rough push. Very soon, there ensued a fight between the lady next to me, who suddenly found her voice, and the guy and his group of strange friends. He attempted a boob poke with me while exiting the bus, and was rewarded with a resounding smack on the head accompanied by a war cry of ......something unprintable. Not that it affected him in any way, he and his friends seemed very thrilled at the prospect of being what I told them they were.

All this in two days flat.....makes me want to conclude - Bangalore est une ville de lecheurs de femmes.

PS: Please don't translate that literally. Bangalore is the land of lechers, not women lickers.
On second thoughts, well, is there a great difference in the two anyway ?

Vada Pav gal reports from Idlidosadom: 2 - Foodventures

Living practically on my own in another city for a month.....now that is something for a little girl whose mother used to hold her hand while crossing the road till about 4 years back.

Since I have to have my lunch outside everyday, I've been doing quite a bit of experimenting with food out here in Bangalore. The first day started with KFC, which was not so great. The second day was a tasteless Mc. Donald's burger, it seems they still don't know how to make it right.

The third day, I had a north Indian thali at Prakash Cafe on Church Street, which was well, as un-north Indian as it could get. They had an offering called Veg Pulao, which tasted weird, the weirdest pulao I ever had.

That apart, the fourth day, we discovered a seedy Food Court at the Fifth Avenue shopping complex. We had Chinese food, supposedly Chinese food, that swam like Ian Thorpe, in what seemed like all the oil from the Middle East. Based on some glowing global recommendations for KC Das, I visited the place for dessert. It is - a teenager's haven in short. Affordable food, good food at that, it was plain amazing. I had some rasamalai, which tasted real cool after days of dreading mysore pak.

Today, I decided to go to KC Das for lunch. Well, since we passed Bowring Institute on our way back from an assignment at St. Mark's Hotel, we indulged in some sinful Pista badam kulfi, which was good, and cold. LOL. Save my wits ! Followed by Luchis with aludom and dal at KC Das. And some more sin in the form of gulab jamuns. For some reason, I like this place. I like the food too. No onions, no visible ones atleast. Tastes quite close to home.

The office canteen, situated behind a gargantuan office that does not betray the existence of a canteen, always cooks tamarind rice in bulk and sets it out for glutton reporters. Pretty good stuff out there, but I wish the canteen wallahs would stop talking to me in Kannada. I've started learning this language on a very negative note. The first proper line I have learnt is something like - Ninna Kannada Gotilla, which is peppered with grammatical mistakes....it means - I don't know Kannada. Talk of seeing the glass half-full !!!

April 07, 2006

Vada Pav gal reports from Idlidosadom -1

Bangalore - The Garden City. Well, it was MY idea, coming here and working for a month. That it actually worked out came as a big surprise to me. But, it did !!!

When I got on the plane, I felt really desolate. Bombay has been my home and hearth for 18 years now. I could not stomach the thought of leaving it to work, for a month. I can't remember the last time I was away from home for a month. I seriosuly debated the consequences of holding up the plane and going back and abandoning my plan. But then I remembered all the planning I'd done and the five 'W's and one 'H'' I had used to justify this. So, very much against my wishes, I stifled that thought.

My first day here, I saw how this city closes down by 7.00 pm. Sleepy city is defnitely more befitting a title than Garden City. Though of course, I remember the flowers at the airport and the 'Welcome to Bangalore' that went with it.

April 4, 2006 - My 18th birthday, my first day of work. Another intern at 'The Hindu', took me to KFC. Well, it was nothing like Mc Donald's, with tasteless stuff and a very gaudy decor. I kind of hate the place. The first article I wrote was a piece on dehydration, summer etc etc, that was printed on the next day.

April 5, 2006 - We started work on a feature on kids and their vacations. On a whim, I called
Meghna to ask her a few official questions regarding her vacation plans. We ended up meeting for lunch at Mc Donald's, and then going over to her place. I spent practically two working hours there, but then, it was a working lunch !!!

There are plans of going to Nrityagram on Sunday....how cool is that !!!!!! I'm so absolutely thrilled !!!!

April 6, 2006 - The only funny thing today was this - I was busy scaring my cousin with the story of 'Ghost of Mae Nak', when we heard some weird sounds from the terrace. And precisely when we'd come around to speculating that a thief was on the terrace, the lights went off. Despite being 'responsible' adults at 18, we yelled like Banshees and darted for her mom and dad. Her mom boldly went off to investigate and came back with the mundane - a rat or squirrel was practising his chowkas on the solar panels.....

Then we were both put to sleep in the 'little kids who don't understand anything' manner.

April 7, 2006 - I've had a good day today. I finally went to KC Das after hearing of it for a long long time. And I discovered the place is real cheap and good. I like the stuff there. In short, khub bhalo.

If the circumstances permit, me a.k.a vada pav gal shall report more often. Vada pav, well, that reminds me of a Bombay vada pav stall I saw on Brigade Road, which sold the thing for a ridiculous price. I mean, price your vada pav at Rs. 8 in Bombay and see what they do to you........