Archive for March, 2006

I was sitting at a cyber cafe many weeks ago. There were some Koshy’s regulars one seat away, and I overheard their conversation.

“You’ve heard that Premier Bookshop is closing down?”
” Yes. Yes.”
“They have given him notice.”

This piece of news so casually delivered caused my hands to come to rest on the keyboard, as if to let my heart recover from that one missed beat.

I have never been a Premier regular. I have probably shopped more often at Strand, Select and Blossom (now). But, still Premier has always stood for all the things that were the essence of Bangalore.

I take pride in that room called a bookstore that has stacks of books carelessly piled around the room, threatening to tip over… and Mr Shanbagh who can confidently make his way through the many piles and carefully pick up the book that you are looking for.

Most Bangaloreans can reel off countless memorable experiences at Premier. I can too. And after the news that Premier was closing down made its way into the newspaper, there have been so many ‘Premier’ anecdotes that have emerged.

There is a a collective and personal sense of loss. But yet, as when Victoria fell, we can do nothing.

I know  now that the only way that you can protect the things you love is to own them (I refer to things of the non-living variety here. I know that you can never own the people that you love).

Yesterday, I was on my way to get some shots of Premier for my collection of photographs on Bangalore. I was heading out from mum’s place in Kammanahalli, and so I thought I would stop at Sandon’s.

For those of you who have never heard of it – Sandon’s is a video parlour on Mosque Road that is another Bangalorean relic if you grew up in the Cantoment. It’s been around for over over two decades and gets its name from the owner – Sandon.

When we were growing up, Sandon’s was a name that stood for quality. He had the best collection of video cassettes in the Cantonment. He also only rented originals. If Sandon’s stood for quality, all the people of quality rented their video cassettes from him. Of course, we were not members of Sandon’s as we did not own a VCR.

Many years later when the transition from video cassettes to VCDs and DVDs happened, Sandon’s made the upgrade too. And of course, they still only rented originals.

By this time, I took my second adult membership of a video parlour, and of course Sandon’s was the video parlour that I went to.

I found that apart from a good collection of VCDs and DVDs, Sandon also knew his movies. And in time, there was a sense of returning to the Bangalore that I knew everytime I visited his parlour.

But, this Thursday, when I stopped to pick up my VCDs, I found that Sandon’s no longer existed. It had closed down. Just like  that.

In its place is a store where they sell art work.

Another familiar spot from the landscape of my chilhood had been wiped away, without so much as a whimper.

In another month, Premier will close down too.

It is the passing of an era.

It is the new Bangalore being forced upon me again and again and again.

I am probably old fashioned. I find that I don’t like it very much.

But, why do I resist? I do understand that change is the only constant.


“In the Tunnel” Times

Posted: March 28, 2006 in Life and Living

It’s one of those days when I am feeling really down… I don’t feel like doing anything… Just want to lie in bed and do nothing…

At work, the continuous battles the Training team has to wage with the finance department are bogging me down. Out of work… I know that I need to find a job. I still have not been able to do that, and that worries  me…. It’s like walking and walking through a long tunnel and feeling a deep dreariness seize your spirit. I know that I must walk on till I reach the light.

And lest that it seem like a bout of self pity, I think I need to remind myself of other ‘In the Tunnel’ times. At those times too it seemed like I was walking through a dark tunnel and that I  would  never see the  light. But then,  albeit  gradually, the light did appear…

1. When Ms Inayath caught me in Ms Khan’s room: In boarding school, we were not allowed to visit teacher’s rooms. But, a group of us decided to break the rules, and we would often visit our favourite teacher, Ms Khan. Our principle, Ms Inayath found out about this and sneaked up on us one evening. We tried to hide under Ms Khan’s bed, but Ms Inayath found us there. I thought that my academic life and Ms Khan’s career were over. Both continued.

2. When I was between schools: My mother took me out of boarding school when I was in Std 8 – in  the middle of the year. I wasn’t sure if I would get into another school. But, I got into Cottons – one of the most elite places to be in.

3. When my Uncle Roy threatened to take me out of school when I was in Wynberg Allen doing my 11th and 12th: Well, he didn’t.

4. When Class 12 got over and I left Mussoorie: In retrospect, I see that it was not the end. It was a new beginning.

5. When I didn’t get into National School and Mounts: Instead I got the best thing that could have happened to me – Jyoti Nivas.

6. When my father died before I had completed my graduation: Nothing good could have possibly come out of that. But I survived it.

7. With the Airlines’ Hoods, my Dad’s Property, and Alone: I was not sure if I would come out of this conversation alive. He he he…but the cat with 34 lives (7 would be too few for me) did!

8. When I quit Centre for Social Action: Yes, without a job, and with the knowledge that I was the only earning member in my family. But, it paid off. At that time too I hunted for a job, and I felt that there was only darkness.

9. London in 2002: Unable to return home to bury my grandma. Down to my last two pounds. Bidding goodbye to a friend I loved. That too passed.

10. Back in India: Without a job. 7000 Rs in hand and starting from scratch. A loan and a dissertation still to be completed. But, it all happened.

11. In Ahmedabad: In a room covered with pigeon droppings. I knew that I had made a terrible mistake. How would I get back to Bangalore? Well, I did 🙂

Yes, in all the twists and turns that life has taken, I have survived. I need to hold on to that and know deep in my heart that this too shall pass.

Brokeback Mountain

Posted: March 25, 2006 in Cinema
Tags: , ,
Ayesha and I went to see this movie last weekend. I don’t think our husbands were too keen to see a love story that revolved around two gay cowboys 🙂 Manoj at least thought it would be pretty boring.

So, Ayesha and I caught up after a long time to go for a movie together. The theatre was Inox. And it was a 3:30 show on a Sunday afternoon.

Well, as the reviews tell you, it is the story of “a forbidden and secretive relationship”. But, it is also the story of a great passion, albeit a forbidden one, spread across decades, families and circumstances.

And yet, while it is a powerful story, it does not have the powerful performances demanded of a great film.

In terms of treatment, there are scenes that are not given the complexity and depth that they deserve. A good example is the scene where Ennis Del Mar moves from resisting to discovering to longing. In fact the transition that I have just described does not even happen. They literally just move from resisting to pulling off each other’s pants.

In the performances, a sense of a longing lingering passion is missing. But, yet the relationship is one that survives across decades.

Anne Hathaway comes out with a good performance as the sophisticated Texan wife of Jack twist. But, Michelle Williams is almost a little irritating as Alma.

The saving grace is the spectacular Wyoming moutainside that provides a compelling background for an unusual powerful story.

Ang Lee is primarily let down by performances that fail to rise up to the high standards demanded by the story

I can’t help thinking of another love story of a great forbidden passion that spans several decades – Doctor Zhivago. A well crafted script that builds on a powerful story, rendered unforgettable by performaces of a lifetime against the great Russian wilderness. Yuri Zhivago, Lara, Tonya… I still remember them all… And there is a sense of sadness in my heart when I think of their stories.

I compare the two because they are essentially the same spirit. Brokeback Mountain is also the story of  a great forbidden love that survives the ravages of time, albeit the love being a homosexual one.

And while things do improve after the interval, it still remains a good love story – not a great love love story.

On the subject of ‘being gay’ – it does not live up to the fine traditions already set by movies like Philadelphia. Of course, Philadelphia is also about living with and dying of AIDS. Being gay is incidental.

I also find that the ‘gay love story’ angle has been hyped up too much. You don’t watch the protagonists unconsciously. You watch them wondering when ‘it’ will happen.

I kind of understand why Brokeback Mountain lost to Crash at the Oscars. It should take more than just making a film about being gay or making a film about a great love story. It needs to be a great film in its own right as well.

Yet, you do not regret seeing Brokeback Mountain. But, it would not make it to your great films of all time.

I finally saw this film… ‘Finally’ because it has been on my ‘must see’ list for a a long, long time. And in an anti-climax of sorts, Manoj and I watched it on our computer!!!!

It’s a film that one must see at least once in a lifetime…

Though made in 1942… you find yourself watching it till the very end…and you do this whether cinema means art for you (as in my case) or whether it means entertainment (Manoj).

First, an outstanding performance by Humphrey Bogart. I understand now why the role of Rick Blaine is always one that he will be remembered by… The film could be named Bogart All The Way… Needless to say of course, that would’nt be as romantic as Casablanca.

Brilliant dialogues help along a plot that is sometimes weak and sometimes takes interesting turns.

But, above else (yes, even above Bogart)… I loved the photography. I admit that this probably has something to do with my great love for black and white photography. The interplay between light and darkness was very well done – as in the hands of a master who understands the art of black and white photography. I also liked the brooding use of shadow.

The conclusion is interesting… Manoj and I finished the film with two different understandings of the conclusion… It was only when we discussed it that I realized that we had understood the conclusion differently. (For those of you who have seen the movie – check out the connected poll)

Ingrid Bergman’s sensitive softness is foil for Bogart’s cold gruffness. But, Casablanca is not her greatest performance. In fact there are scenes where she seems a bit contrived, even melodramatic.

And yes, the tag of “America’s most popular and beloved movie” is a difficult one to live by. I don’t know whether Casablanca is the best movie from Hollywood I have seen. And so, it’s hard to say whether I agree with the rankings of top 10 movies of all time that put Casablanca at the top of the list… But Number 1 is always a controversial choice… If I were doing a list of that sort, I would probably leave  Number 1 blank  😉

Having said that… Casablanca is most certainly a classic of the 1940’s.

More interesting, it retains it’s charm half a century later. Even when viewed with the click of a mouse on a Compaq monitor.

I wonder whether Michael Curtiz (the director – in case you don’t remember) ever imagined this! 🙂

It takes all kinds to make up the world. You discover that especially at job interviews. Let me introduce you to some of the kinds who I have met…

Mr/Ms Me, I and myself: This kind of employer will make you stand on your hand to just reach the interview, and won’t bother if you have to loose your current job just attempting to get there. At the end of the interview, you may/may not get job…and you won’t hear from them again if you don’t. If you do get the job, you will probably be expected to join tomorrow without the slightest concern for your current employer/project. And when you read your offer letter, you will notice that your new employer has all kind of intricate clauses worked in that makes it impossible to leave them.

I should know – I work for a company that expected me to join them in 20 days, but has a three month notice period 🙂

The Idiot! This kind of an employer will ask a Writer questions like “How do you write?” or look at the different domains you’ve worked in say, “How do you understand these different domains?”…Not understanding that writing and understanding are abilities… They can only be tested by how it is done… Not by verbose answers.

This kind of interviewer will not accept “I write like how I breathe” (even if it’s true). So, don’t try it, and don’t loose your cool. Just patiently explain as you would to a six-year-old child.

The make up your mind for you type:
This type of employer will decide on your behalf that you are too creative or too experienced for the role on offer.

If you have changed too many jobs, he/she will decide on your behalf that you won’t stick on to your next company as well.

There’s nothing much you can do with this type – except to forget about the interview once you have done it.

Please, please make me feel important: You find these guys at other places besides across the interview desk. They are distinguished by their ability to ask you shockingly irrelevent questions just to demonstrat how much they know.

Another variant of this type is the kind who take pleasure in tearing you apart just to prove their great intellectual prowess.

With this type, it helps to cringe a lot. Also, massage and massage their ego till it really swells. Of course, you need to remember that you need to have the energy to keep doing as long as you want to hold the job.

I pay, so I throw my weight around: This kind will spend the interview session looking away from you with disinterest, rather than at you. You also spend the rest of the interview question fending off questions coated with scepticism.

You need to ask yourself a question – is this the kind of atmosphere you would like to come to for even one month of your working life?

The Flirt: This employer will give you every hint that implies that you have the job… But once you go back home, you will never hear from the company again.

The Open Mind: With this type of employer you have a conversation. You share ideas… You disagree… And instead of fending off sceptism, you find that you are having a discussion.

When you leave, you know that you have met a person you enjoyed talking to. You may not get the job… But it doesn’t really matter… You feel empowered.

The Professional: An open mind…who takes the process even a step further – he/she gives you feedback on your answers at the end of the interview. Finally, the Professional also ensures that you get an acceptance/rejection letter at the end of the process.

Yeah, I know it’s wishful thinking… I met an Open Mind today… But, still have to interview with a company that sends you a Rejection letter when you don’t get the job… But, that stays on my list for the Professional 🙂

And finally, the moral of the story:
1. Have the interview on your own terms. At least that way, you don’t feel when it does not work out.
2. Go prepared to meet the Idiot and pray for all the patience that you will need.
3. The person on the other side does not define you. Be yourself. Otherwise, you will have to play someone else for the rest of your stay at an organisation.
4. An interview is about hearing that click. If either side does not hear it, this combination will not work.
5. Persevere. Persevere. Persevere.
6. When you hear the click, you set the terms for your employment.
7. Later, be the kind of interviewer who you want to meet.


Posted: March 11, 2006 in Cinema
Tags: , ,

We finally went to see it today. And yes, I liked it. It is the second Hollywood production that I have liked in recent times. The first one of course being Memoirs of a Geisha.

So without giving away too much of the story, let me share the parts that I liked best.

I understand that racism is a complex theme, and no film can really express it fully. And yet, I like the way the film handled stereotyping. And by virtue of the society we live in, it is ingrained in us. We may think we are liberal and open minded – but are we really? Deep down inside us, don’t we attribute certain qualities  to different communities…so that in a reflex action we react only to the stereotype and not the person.

Behind every racist, there could also be a man who returns home to a family.

But, more dangrously, behind every so called free spirited open thinking individual – the racist rears its head now and then.

Apart from the handling of racism, the film had a good script that carefully crafted the interweaving of different lives and their plots and subpolots. The editing was very well done (and it would have to be for such a film) and that added to the effectiveness of this technique.

In the end, the film left no loose ends. It also changed your perception of the issue of racism and yourself.

Well done Hollywood! And yes, I am saying this after a very long time.

I went to see a movie with my mother after 17 years. I don’t know if my mother and I will be ever be better friends… But we did enjoy the time we spent together today. We had our lunch at Koshy’s and then walked over to Inox.

The last time we did this, my mother paid the bill. The movie was Anne of a Thousand Days. The theatre was Blue Moon – and if your memory goes back a long way… you would know that this was one of three theatres that accompanied Plaza on MG Road… Lest I stray, the nostalgia that goes with that statement belongs to another story:-)

It was not the reenacting of a past action in a Bangalore that exists only in the collective memory of a generation that bought a sense of the two decades (almost!) that separate those two films. It had more to do with the grey hair that I now see in abundance on my mother’s head and the unfamiliar feebleness that I see in her gait. My indestructible undefeatable mother is going to be 60 next year…and the age is beginning to show.

And so we made our way into the movie hall. Strangely, my mother loved Inox. But, then my mother also loved America 🙂

Then, the lights went out… And we gave ourselves away to Memoirs of a Geisha.

It was as the years had not intervened… For the first time since my college years, I felt a Hollywood production moving me very deeply in its potrayal of a way of life that once was.

The film was complex… Moving through a wide range of emotions… Not seeing things as good or bad… But, just as they were. There was also an understanding of the power of the human spirit to love and to hate.

The screenplay and the performances were able to rise to levels of complexity and power demanded by the plot.

The ending was simplistic. But, even then, it did not disappoint.

Yes… definitely worth a watch.

And my mother and I had a good evening.