As I look back over my blog, I find that two years ago at the same time, I was in the middle of an important exercise—I was house hunting.

It’s taken two years for that journey to reach fruition. But yes, in August 2013, many lifetimes later, I can finally say that the search is over. I do have my own space.

It’s a two-bedroom house in Kammanahalli. Yes, it’s a bit of climb. But I love my two enclosed terrace gardens that go along with this space.

I found the house through the conventional route—a real estate agent. Infact, it was the first house that I saw. But there was something about the house that called to me. Maybe it was those two enclosed terraces that gave me lots of space for experiments in the garden, and so I said ‘yes’.

There was also one moment that did it for me. It was when I stood in the second bedroom, with the sunlight streaming in through the windows, and looked into my neighbour’s terrace garden. That’s when I knew beyond doubt that this was the house for me.

Then came the negotiations with the landlord that saw me exceed my budget by over Rs 2000. But I liked the place, so I gave in again.

After all the agony with my mother and the sense of being stifled when I lived in an extended family when I was married, it feels so good to have my own space. And so, this is another journey that comes to an end 🙂 Another bridge that has been crossed on the road to self-reliance.

The house does have its shortcomings. I hadn’t noticed during my first visit that my street was noisy. It already has two restaurants, and there is a third one coming up! Also, it’s a long climb to the second floor, especially when you are carrying things all the way up many times.

But it’s such a lovely compact house, with space for things like gardens. It’s also a new construction. And once I am in, I do manage to shut the whole world out.

So I get up every morning to the sound of birds chirping in my neighbour’s terrace garden, and the sound of my mother’s nagging voice seems far, far behind. I also look forward to having my friends and family over to visit. I want this to be the open house that I had always intended my home to be, and that my mother never let it become.

Location: Kammanahalli, HRBR Layout

Size: 2 Bedroom 1,200 square feet

Price: Rs 17,000

Advertisements

When I chose to write a book on Aamir Khan, I always knew it would be controversial. Not simply because he is an actor whose work has impacted Hindi cinema, but because he always seems to evoke two extreme responses – adulation or extreme dislike (on the belief that his work is overrated and his positioning pseudo).

So just as I am grateful for the attention this book has received as the Landmark No 1 Non-fiction Bestseller (For almost two months in a row), a Crossword Non-Fiction Bestseller and its debut amongst Nielsen Bookscan’s top non-fiction bestsellers, I realize that I must accept both the criticism and the praise that this book has received with equal grace and humility.

However, there seem to be a few myths doing the rounds and I would like to respond to them as if I don’t set the facts right about my own book, nobody else will :)

  1. “I’ll Do It My Way” is not a biography. It is a filmography – as all the summaries released by the publisher will tell you – and should read/evaluated/reviewed as such. A filmography does not dwell on the man Aamir Khan, it looks at his work. So readers who expect me to examine all the dark rumours around the man will be disappointed. These are not the subject of the book – not because I was too scared to investigate them, but because they were not an area of interest. My passion is cinema – both film-making and the rationale behind it – and that’s what this book is about
  2. Am I die-hard Aamir fan/admirer? Not really… So I can say that I did not care for some of his recent films like RDB, Ghajini or TZP (and many others too!). But as an objective film researcher, I cannot ignore their impact, especially if it has been very clearly documented.
  3. So is the book only “in praise” of Aamir Khan. That is not true – unless one is so prejudiced by one’s own views that one is not able to take a balanced perspective. For instance, one of my favourite interviews in the book is with Mahesh Bhatt – simply because it is amongst the most objective voices. Mahesh appreciated Aamir’s sincerity and commitment, but seemed to find Aamir’s search for perfection exhausting – even as Mansoor Khan provides a different take on the same subject (without any knowledge of what Mahesh had said before this). The debate between the two views is interesting. Then, later, for the first time, directors like Dharmesh Darshan, Indra Kumar and even Mansoor talk about certain filming decisions taken in conjunction with Aamir that were mistakes. So we see that while Aamir has made cinematic decisions that have worked well with audiences in the recent years, there have been mistakes as well. Just as there were many poor film choices in the early and middle phases of his career. This book touches on all that too. Infact, this is more than most existing books on Indian actors have done so far.
  4. A review in Deccan Chronicle insinuates that Amol Gupte was dropped from the list of interviewees because Aamir Khan/his office edited the list of interviewees. That is not true and borders on defamation. Aamir Khan’s office did not suggest that I drop anyone… But they did suggest that I include directors Muragadoss, Rajkumar Hirani and Vidhu Vindod Chopra. As I had begun working on this book much before Ghajini was released, they were not on my original list and it worked well for the book that this was pointed out.
  5. So why was Amol Gupte not included in my list of interviewees? Only because in MY view he was not a director, producer or principal actor in Taare Zameen Par. My interest was in how the film was made, and there was sufficient documentary coverage from the producers in the public domain that allowed me to analyze this aspect.
  6. Incidentally, my modus operandi was to try and get every director whose film was being included in the book to give me some commentary on his/her film. If directors like Ashutosh and Farhan are not in the book, it’s because they were busy and could not give me their time. Ditto with Juhi Chawla! In fact, for the record, the person I tried hardest to reach while writing this book was not Aamir, it was Juhi. But her secretary was unable to put us in touch over a period of two years. Incidentally, Juhi did not interview for the only other book that currently exists on Aamir — “Aamir Khan: Actor with a difference” by senior film journalist Lata Khubchandani. On the subject of interviewees, I would also like to point out that none of the directors I spoke to were interviewed for the previous book by Lata as well. In fact, this particular panel of interviewees is unlikely to be put together again. As a documenter of Hindi cinema, I believe that this makes the book significant — both in any study of Aamir’s work or his films.
  7. Aamir collaborated with the book in some way. No… He did not. This book was an independent research initiative. Aamir’s office was only aware that I was working on it — nothing more. I even paid for all the expenses/travel related to the book on my own, and till the end I believed that I could have to self-publish it. Just because the stance is positive does not mean that it is less independent or researched. Anyone who has read my previous work would know that I am a positive person and I like celebrate the best in people. This book reflects that approach.
  8. Is the book is a compilation of interviews from film magazines? Hardly! The first information source was live interviews, then came film/video coverage, followed by coverage in the national press and then film magazines. Having said that, I think a researcher is striking a pseudo-intellectualist stand if they believe that film journals are beneath them. Film journals reflect popular culture and can be a rich and extremely interesting source of information as they capture nuances that are sometimes missed by mainstream media. Typically, any quote that I have used in the book is not an isolated statement. It is corroborated by other interviews that he has given over the years.

When it comes to my work on creating the book, I am grateful that I got to write this book from a non-film background as this gave me the freedom to write my book without any prejudices. I started with a clean slate, and if at the end, my conclusion was not ‘negative’ or ‘darkly sinister’ enough to suit either the cynic or the traditional film writer, then so be it.  

I also did not have any pre-conceived notions on films like “Dil”, “Raja Hindustani” and “Ghajini”, and responded to them on the basis of both how they were made/how they were received/their impact. It does not matter to me that most people who appreciate “French cinema” better did not find these films appealing enough. In all truth, none of these films appeal to me personally either… But I am ready to look beyond myself and understand that making commercially viable Indian films is also an art that most film critics themselves have never mastered, and these films represent that art and to that extent reflect popular culture.

In fact “I’ll Do It My Way” is a actually a piece of film research, a methodology that I picked up under the Media Studies Department at the London School of Economics. But we also turned that approach on its head to make the book accessible to the lay reader. As I look at the book’s Flipkart journey, I believe that has already happened, and that is this book’s biggest achievement.

Finally, “I’ll Do It My Way” is an Aamir Khan filmography… So this work was begun with the view that Aamir’s work is significant to Indian cinema. The films that were covered in this book were meant to reflect different shades of his work as that was the area of my research. People may have their own views on it, and if this book encourages discussion around Aamir’s craft or even prods someone else to write their own book on the subject, it would have served its purpose.

(This post has also been cross posted on my blog for the book “I’ll Do It My Way”.)

It was THE lane with the most beautiful house in the world. It was THE lane where I wanted to live when I was a six-year-old girl.

The lane hadn’t changed much over the last 30 years, except for two new apartment blocks. I was visiting one of them (the red garish one) on Househunt, Episode 2.

But the flat that I was visiting in this apartment block wasn’t on rent. It was on sale. I’d heard about it in the old-fashioned way that still works best in this part of town – by word of mouth.

Since the flat had been built 18 years ago, it didn’t have a lift or car parking. So I walked up to the second floor.

As it turned out the flat was being refurbished, so there was paint and plaster everywhere. But though small, it was quaint – almost out of Enid Blyton’s world. Yes, this could be home.

Then Mr P, the house owner began bargaining. The initially discussed price of 34 lakhs now became 35 lakhs. He wanted me to make him my best offer. I asked for time to consider it over.

As I drove back, I did consider the fact that this was THE lane. But I found that as I thought about it as a property that I wanted to own and not rent, I was dissatisfied.

It was a beautiful lane, but this apartment had not been built for the future. In Bangalore of 2011, parking was important. So was a lift – for a a flat on the second floor. Besides, an 18-year-old building could also not be without its construction and structural flaws.

So I let my head rule over my heart, and I said goodbye to the house on THE lane. Yet something already tells me that this is one ‘head over heart’ decision that I will always be very happy to have made!

Location: Da’Costa Layout
Price: 35 lakhs (and going up!)

It was a routine drive back home from evening after work. But an hour and ten minutes later, I was slightly short of being half-way home. The drive back usually takes me just an hour on the worst of days. But this had been an evening of rain and unusually bad traffic jams all the way.

I had an important office call in another 10 minutes at 8 pm. So I pulled the car onto a deserted stretch on the opposite side of the road—where I thought I wouldn’t be in anyone’s way—and took the call.

The only problem was that my ‘deserted stretch’ turned out to be not so deserted in some time. Bikers from the opposite side of the road got onto the stretch as well to beat the never-ending traffic jam, merrily braving the stream of vehicles riding into them.

I turned my headlights and indicator on just to ensure that one of them didn’t ram into me.

An hour later my call was done and I was ready to get back home. The only problem was that my car didn’t seem so ‘ready’ to join me. An hour with the headlight on, and that on a cold and rainy evening, had drained the battery out.

I dialed BS. There was another time where I had left my car’s headlight on for half the night and my battery had gone dead. On that occasion I’d been with BS and her family. Her brother B had helped me get in touch with an all-night service, and we’d managed to jumpstart the car.

But BS’ line was busy. There was a moment of fear. BS has this habit of ‘missing’ her missed calls. But that night, though she was out driving, she did call back.

She volunteered to get me the number, and she did. But when I dialed that phone number, I found that I was dialing in to a number that did not exist.

I called BS again, and that’s when the truth came tumbling out. Her brother B’s wife was in labour, and she could not disturb him.

I told her not to worry. There were other friends who I could reach out to, especially on a night when my dear friend’s only brother was having his first baby J

I tried starting the car again. It spluttered and went dead.

I called my mum’s friend Aunty R—the first woman I’d met who handled her own car with panache. No one picked up the phone. I remembered that she was spending a month at her son D’s home, and I didn’t have his number.

One more attempt at starting the car did not get me anywhere. By this time it was 9:30 and only getting later.

I tried MC–another girlfriend who was really good at cars. No she did not know any all-night service stations and she was just logging out from work, but she could search for them online or drive across and join me. This from an office that was almost 30 km away.

I told her not to worry. I could get the number over the Internet as well. After all, I still had my last trump card—my laptop and my datacard were both in my car. If nothing else, I could at least get all the information I needed via the world wide web (why hadn’t I thought of that???!).

I pulled out my laptop, but as my hand groped desperately into the darkness, there was no sign of the datacard. There was a sinking feeling in my heart as I remembered taking the datacard out of my laptop bag last night. Had I put it back?

In desperation I made one last ditch attempt to get the car started again.

This time, almost miraculously, it spluttered, and then came alive.

I drove without stopping till I reached home—the golden rule with a ‘dead’ battery that you manage to revive.

As I drove back, CR (who’d been alerted by MC) called to find out if she could drive across and help me jumpstart my car. BS’ husband SV also texted me the number of the Maruti helpline. As it turned it out, very soon later, BS & SV’s little nephew took his first tentative steps into the world.

Later, when I reached home, I also found that my datacard had always been in my bag!!!!

So I guess if you’re ever stranded on the road on a dark lonely rainy night, it’s important to have your wits and your friends around you. But most importantly, if you have a Maruti car, dial 18004200. It’s the Maruti 24×7 helpline number, and it works!

It’s been 12 years since I last went house hunting on my own, and it’s interesting to see how the market has changed…and I have too.

The first time I went house hunting, I had just turned 21. So I didn’t ask for too much—just a room with a view and my own independence. In a city that had still not got its water supply act together, I also checked about possible water shortages. All other details were happily forgotten.

I ended with a roof that opened out onto a large terrace. It was my own space in the sun (literally!) and I loved it. Till I discovered that a tiny gap between the wall and the ceiling let bats and rain water enter at will. I could deal with the rain, but not the bats. I vacated the house long before my lease expired!

In the next house that I rented, I did examine the ceiling very carefully. But as it turned out, the house was infested with rats. Needless to say, I did not last for even nine months. From here, I moved to my own house, and with that concluded (thankfully!) the never-ending search for a home.  

But the bogey man was back last month. I find myself back in the real estate market, and the game has changed alright!

Like all other things, real estate has also moved online. After running through scores of properties, I finally settled on T’s advertisement. The location and the size seemed right, the price ridiculously low. I clicked the “get number” option on the website, and there was beep on my cellphone. T’s number had reached my cellphone via a text message. Renting a house in Bangalore definitely was not what it used to be!

I gave T a call, and she guided me right to her doorstep over my cellphone. While it had been a long drive, my heart warmed to her house on a lane that still had many trees.

Later T led me through her newly tiled, freshly painted home. She was especially proud of her bathroom. The kitchen was unusual because it had a coconut tree running right through it—her attempt to save every possible tree while building her house. All in all, the quality of construction had definitely improved since the old days.

Like every potential landlord, T had plenty of questions. That at least was one aspect of house hunting that stood unaltered by the intervening decade 🙂 I fielded her off as best as I could, but yet I warmed up to her. She was a cosmopolitan old Bangalorean, who still lived in a world where everything had not yet turned concrete.

So did I end up renting the house? It did have the right price, quality and landlord. Not to mention plenty of green.

As it turns out, the answer is ‘no’.

For one, the long drive off the main road could be slightly scary on a dark lonely night (and that’s when I usually travel). Then, a tree in a kitchen is a cool idea when it’s just in your head, but if you are living with in your home, it’s another story. (Would it bring my old companions ‘the rats’ back—considering that I had open roots and mud in the middle of my kitchen?!) It didn’t help that parking was a mess either.

But more than anything else, when I looked at T’s ‘property for rent’, I did see a roof over my head, but it could not inspire within me a desire to own (or even rent) it.

So I moved on.

This time at least I have decided not to settle for four walls with a roof. My search for a home continues.

Location: Hennur
Size: 1 bedroom house (abt 900 sq feet) with space for a garden
Price: Rs 6500/- only

A couple of days ago, a friend posted an interesting picture on Facebook.

The picture in question showed a Muslim family in Ahmedabad, dropping their son to a fancy dress competition, where he played the role of Lord Krishna. My friend posted that we should take pride in being Indian because these things (that might seem unusual  anywhere else in the world) come so easily to us. There were others who argued that instances like this were few and far in between.

Yet I believe that India is instinctively pluralistic, and that is why inspite of all our problems, this country almost miraculously survives.

I see pluralism in…

  • The symbolism of the Infant Jesus Church that I first visited because Usha (and not me) prayed there every Thursday. Many years later, I thought of Usha when I noticed a statue of Infant Jesus on my cabdriver’s dashboard. He incidentally was Muslim 🙂
  • The small details like thalis and sindoors that have found their way into most South Indian Christian wedding ceremonies.
  • My 18-year-old maid’s spirit when she sets out to shop for both The St Mary’s Feast and Ganesh Chaturthi. 
  • Those days when we wish each other “Eid Mubarak”, “Happy Diwali” or “Merry Christmas”. The instinctive response most times is “same to you”, irrespective of the other’s religious faith 🙂
  • The earthshaking goose bump inducing moment when an Irfan Pathan stood at the University Of Karachi and responded to an audience who had the audacity to ask him if we would consider playing for Pakistan saying, “First of all, let me tell you that I am proud to be Indian”. Especially powerful words as they came from someone whose family was almost burnt to death in the Gujarat riots!
  • The politics that gave us Abdul Kalam as President and Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister–at the same time!
  • The ease with which our names, our cuisine, our music and our dance forms intermingle. So a Mubarak is not necessarily Muslim, a Lakshmi is not always Hindu and an Andy need not be Christian.
  • The incongruity of two commercial establishments–The Sherlock Holmes Pub and The Islamic Boutique–that stand side by side, peacefully running their respective businesses.
  • The way that at the best of times we co-exist– an Iyengar Bakery besides a cold storage or mixed and vibrant mixed neighbourhoods.
  • The composition of the only two interests that have genuinely become national passions–the Indian cricket and Bollywood. Need I say any more?

The examples are all around us. They perhaps are so much a part of us, that we don’t even notice them. The rest is simply politics.

I’m back

Posted: September 7, 2011 in Life and Living, Writing

Because I have something to say 🙂