Friday, July 01, 2005

I arrived in Mumbai this morning. My Inbox had a message from a very close buddy. It finds a permanent place as the last post on this blog:

Its hardly been 12 hours since you left this place, but I miss you already.

I don't know why, it can't be because we met every day,
because we didn't.

It can't be because we smoked together,
because we didn't.

Nor can it be because we shared a drink,
because we didn't.

It can't be because we stayed at the same place,
because we didn't.

Neither can't be because we worked together,
because we didn't.

It can't be because we went on long drives down the ECR,
because we didn't.

Nor can it be because we spent a lot of our spare time together,
because we didn't.

I miss you already, but I don't know why.

Perhaps I don't need to know.

Started the day with a photoshoot of Prema - and the rest of us. This lady had made Chennai so spectacular for us all. She spoke Hindi. She cooked Chapatis. She prepared extra strong coffee for Dil, strong for me and tea for Cheeru. She had brought the vegetables with her own money when she found the stock run-out at home. She had treated us like kids and doted on us. I'm not sure if I'd run into another Prema again.

We created a lot of noise in the comforts of the train coach. It was like a small get-together. Shom, Cheeru, Pondy, Dil and Robbie (with his Tie and official id tag still on) - looking like the Chief Railway Inspector.

I didn't want to say bye. I had to.

I spent the rest of the evening messaging everybody thanking them for making Chennai so special. I wouldn't get free messaging from an Aircel number in Mumbai would I ?!

Thursday, June 30, 2005

I was at the Computerised Railway Reservation Counter at Besant Nagar at 0630hrs. I was expecting to be the only person around but was greeted by 8 other people. The counter did not open till 0800hrs and I had Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies to pass my time with. Short stories are indeed so much fun.

The previous night Cheeru had double-checked with his travel agent who had told him that the chances of getting a 2nd AC Tatkaal ticket were more remote than getting a sleeper berth. That's because there are only 6 seats for the same.

Well. There was definitely something about my time being good. I got my 2nd AC ticket. I was definitely leaving Chennai on Friday afternoon.

We loaded my girl into the Cargo service. I wanted to travel light. So I took the extra trouble of packaging everything into cartons which would be cargoed. Pondy and Kaus helped me in packing her up. We wrapped her up like a young bride in all the jute bags I had. I wouldn't tolerate a scratch on her. She was too precious to be harmed.

I couldn't watch her getting loaded into the truck because Gandhi was leaving tonight. The idiots had not even brought a ramp. But Pondy was there to look after her. So she was safe.

Cheeru, Dil, Jai and myself headed to the Station to bid Gandhi Goodbye. He was off to New Delhi - closer home to his Dad. Never seen him happier ! He got luckier. Somebody wished to exchange his ticket with him, wanting to sit in Gandhi's coach. It turned out that the other ticket was a Class upgrade and Gandhi would spend the rest of his journey in 2nd AC comfort !

The rendezvous was Freez Zone, near Music Academy on TTK Road. Gandhi had shown us the spot. In fact he had raved like crazy about it. So there we were. Robbie, Dil, Cheeru, Jai, Shom, Maddy and myself. Blissfully eating Kulfis. In lovely Chennai.

Later that night. These chaps - my roomies of New#39 - Robbie, Maddy, Dil and Cheeru gifted me a Lord Ganesha idol - playing the flute. I also got a pack of Cigars. It was certainly not the most brilliant combination but it brought out the tears in my eyes.. These guys knew me too well.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Well Well Well. They gave me news that I need to report to Mumbai immediately. It was no surprise. But I did not expect my transfer orders to come in this fashion.

A lot of good things have been happening in my life lately. And a grand party at Geoffery's, Radha Park Inn, on Jawaharlal Nehru Salai was certain tonight. Mumbai has happened for good. I've got a more responsible role at work. And that's one city that is sure to teach me more about life..

So it was the gang - Kaus, Shameel, Mhzhk, Zerish, Shom, Cheeru, Dil, Pondy, Maddy & Suddy. Cheeru was kind enough to scan the Menu and place this fantabulous order - Rough Seas Pitcher, Mango Madness, Strawberry Lemonade, Sea Green, Long Beach Iced Tea Pitcher, Bloody Mary and finally, Ambrosia. It was crazy. With all that stuff going down our throats, and a superb DJ playing the tracks that were just right for the moment - all of us were rocking to the music.

Initially there was only one couple dancing. Then the party got grander with the Lady coming up to us and asking us all to join in. Believe me, she did not ask any other group to join in. There must be definitely be something she saw in all of us. And we all shook the place like anything..

Somewhere around 12:30AM we realized that dinner was still on our To-Do list. AFAIK, IITM has one lovely place called Dhaba Express which is open till a cool 1:30AM mostly. The only problem was that we could all walk ten steps straight - but no Cop would buy it.

But we took the risk. Shom led the way and Maddy suggested driving thru T-Nagar to get to IITM faster. Now we know not to ever take Maddy's suggestions. Especially at an odd midnight hour.

We were greeted by some 4 Cops, complete with Jeep, Lathis and everything. Cheeru has a Hawk's eye when spotting Cops - because he's never got his scooter's papers. I realized that there was a Cop ahead after I was 26inches away from squashing him. Too late.

I have never been so terrified in Chennai. I definitely had a strange breath. And I didn't speak Tamil. I couldn't imagine how bad it would get.

But when already in trouble, its better to face it - keeping the helmet on. I just turned off my lights as the Cop waved his baton. Promptly turned off the engine as well. Smoothly opened my Toolbox and produced this plastic sheet enclosing a bunch of white sheets - photocopies of all my documents.

The act was so smoothly done that the Cop assumed I had everything right (I did, except my breath smelled corny). He just said, 'Go'. That was the fastest 0 to 60 (kmph) I had done in Chennai till date.

I guess he let the others go as well - because they looked like these cute school kids who had come to Anna Nagar to eat Pizza and were now returning home in Adyar.

Just when you think the surprise is over, you're greeted by another. The second stop was opposite Raj Bhavan. The Cops were not noticeable in the dark and they were stopping everyone - especially bikers. These guys looked really mean.

I tried to repeat the same thing over. It didn't work. The Cop asked 'Drinks saaptingla ?' From the limited Tamil I know, this translates to 'Have you had drinks ?' Its a good habit to say 'Tamil Teriada' when you have nothing else to say. It means 'I don't know Tamil'.

The Cop was not amused. 'You're saying you don't know Tamil, in fluent Tamil', he said. I just stared blankly. I had no clue what he was saying (Dil explained that to me later).

So he started bickering. He said you guys all smell weird. And had we had drinks ? I don't know how Dil came up with this but he told the Cop in Tamil - "Yes Saar. I am totally drunk. In fact, that is the reason I am sitting behind this fellow who is not".

Can you believe he let us go ? Neither did we.

The dinner at IITM was fabulous. Cheeru arrived before us. He took a detour to avoid the Cops by riding thru Guindy.

We had tons of Lassi and really well-prepared food. It had been a brilliant evening and I knew I was going to miss my time here.

It was somewhere at 0200hrs that I realized that this was the place where I set up base after arriving in Chennai - the first time 2.5yrs ago. It was ironic that I was celebrating my last dinner inside the same campus..

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Robbie is distraught. Robbie goes to the UK. Robbie returns. Robbie's boss finds greener pastures. Robbie gets promoted. Robbie and friends open the bottle.

Wine Connoisseur, veggie foodaholic, Jain Dharmatma cum idiot-extraordinaire - Cheeru turned Bartender tonight - mixing Maaza Mango Juice, Sprite Ice and 12-year old Chivas Regal Whiskey.

We could have planned, but the fun is in the chaos.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

So close, no matter how far
Couldn't be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
and nothing else matters

Nothing Else Matters

After listening to the original and the S&M version on Southern Spice Music till 0500hrs, Puyal and I finally crashed.

At precisely 1145hrs, Cheeru enquires about the shortest route to get to Ega Theatre. At 1200hrs, he informs us that all of us are also to come. At 1240hrs, after missing out a crucial Ghost-in-love-with-Mortal scene, we're all watching Amol Palekar's 'Paheli'. Thank God, Cheeru took that decision.

The colours of Rajasthan!

We practically had the entire Cinema Hall to ourselves. And aapno Rajasthan, its colours, its traditions, and the culture portrayed was marvellous. I, incidentally, was in my Jodhpuri Jootis, and not before long, I was enjoying the show sitting cross-legged on my seat as if it were a Diwan.

All the characters got their Rajasthani perfect, with a super-dignified Rajput twang. Naseeruddin Shah's unmistakeable voice carried the narration with style. But this was not all.

This film too, brought about a refreshing change in perspective. One big loser, Kisanlal, leaves his newly-wedded wife, a day after the wedding. The idea is to return after 5yrs with ten times more money. That's what we call the 'Baniyaa' in Rajasthan. He even checks his account books on the honeymoon night.

Kisanlal leaves the beautiful Lachchi to make money. And that's when the naughty Ghost, who can take any form he likes, and who adores the young bride, returns as 'Kisanlal'. The one-liners were sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant. But not a word was to be missed.

The way the movie goes, the Ghost is so mesmerized by Lachchi's beauty, that he reveals his true identity - an apparition. And because he will not force her to accept him, he offers to leave. Which is when the Lady remarks, "Jaane waale ko to rok na saki, aane waale ko ub na jaane dungi".

And I thought only south-Indian women were beautiful..

This movie was about the woman. Her grief at not being able to restrain her man from leaving. And her accepting, and then falling in love with the Ghost embodied as her husband. It was her choice.

So even when the real Kisanlal returns and challenges the Ghost, she tells the Phantasm, 'Promise me you'll never let go'.

The ending was that of a classic fairytale and all of us had sored our throats with the cheering. My hands were throbbing from the intermittent claps throughout.

The liberal use of the lovely Rajasthani phrases 'Padhaaro' and 'Khama', reminded me of home. This movie is saturated with everything Rajasthan. And even before it ended, we had decided that lunch was to be at Jaipur.

Greams Road houses Jaipur - one fantastic place for Rajasthani cuisine. We weren't very hungry, so all of us ordered one Thali and multiple plates of Dal Baati. When visiting home, my ABCD (American born confused Desi) cousins refer to the stuff as paper-weights !

The Dal was marvellous, although the Baati had taken a form that neither Cheeru nor I were accustomed to - It was flat, like a cookie ?! The original paper-weights are spheres prepared by baking wheat flour.

We enjoyed the meal, nevertheless. The taste was different. And for a change, I was missing Ma's cooking.

We rounded up with the Matka Kulfi. Getting it out of the pot proved rather troublesome, until Maddy figured out using the reverse of the spoon to scoop the stuff out. Jai and Dil succeeded in bending a spoon Matrix-style.

Chennai has almost everything I have back home.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Watched Fanta Regina Nacro's Bintou today. This lovely film portrays Bintou's struggle to educate her daughter. It reminded me a lot of rural Indian society, where women don't usually go to school, as its an added financial burden. In this film as well, Abel (the husband) is against the concept as there's not enough money to fund their sons' education itself.

But Bintou is adamant. She figures out a way to get a loan to start her own millet-sprouting business, which is a success. In the process she invites the wrath of her husband, because Abel fears that the newfound financial freedom would lead her to adultery.

Fanta Regina Nacro's Bintou

The husband spies on the wife. And overhears Bintou's plans for a rendezvous the next afternoon. He plans to trap her red-handed in the act. However, when sneaking up at the place, he's spotted by some women who beat him up thinking he is an auto-thief. Bintou somehow helps him out and informs everybody that Abel's her husband.

The conclusion was lovely when its clarified that the afternoon meeting was that of a women's self-help group. One of the women tells Abel how lucky he is to have a wife like Bintou, who is so eager to share the financial responsibility of educating their children. In turn, which is what I liked even more, she tells how lucky Bintou is, to have a husband like Abel, who loves her so much. I guess it was all about perspective. The fact that Abel feared his wife's adultery (and all the crappy thoughts) was completely overshadowed by the fact that the cause for all this was his immense love for her. Hmm.

The last scene is even better. Bintou declares that her millet-sprouting business has helped generate enough money to fund two of their kids' studies. Abel can fund the second son's education. And he accepts. Their love for each other is superbly reflected on the screen, and it works magic.


Also watched Joël Vanhoebrouck's Joséphine. It was hilariously creative. And there was this statistic that 99% of men will not talk to the woman they're interested in.. And this wasn't even India !

Stuck with a lovely girl in the elevator

I liked this synopsis very much:
"Nowadays, in an appartment-building in Bruxelles (or anywhere else...) men and women cross paths. In the hallway. In the staircase. In the elevator. Men and women looking for something. Looking for each other or for themselves, it doesn’t really matter... And sometimes, they end up finding each other. An elevator-breakdown might even help. But that’s not always a solution. Why don’t you ask Augustin, the caretaker? He can tell you the stories. And maybe he’ll tell you about Joséphine?"


Richard Jutras' 'Hit and Run' was hilarious. The story of Hélène and her baseball bat. Reminded me of "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned/ Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned", as quoted in William Congreve's The Mourning Bride.


But the one movie that had us all sighing was Reines d’un jour by Pascal Magnin. Shot on the slopes of the gorgeous Swiss Alps, this short was all about the sensuality associated with graceful human movement. The best part was the idea of using breath, blowing in then blowing out, bringing people closer and then pushing them away (physically). It was too well done.


Just when I thought we were done for the day, I got a request from Jai - 'When is the screening ?'

Had been planning this for a long long time, and finally succeeded. We (Arun, Puyal, Shom, Dil, Cheeru, Jai, two special invitees - Pooja and Shakthi, Robbie, Maddy, Kaus, Zerish, Mhzhk, Shameel and myself) gathered at Pondy's place for a lights-off premiere of 'We'. Won the audience's approval. And then got kicked again. I don't know what it is with these guys, but there's no non-violent way to celebrate anything these days.


Finally headed to Romallee, next to Music Academy to celebrate two birthdays and friendship. The funny thing was that we first peeked into Mowbray's Inn on the same road. Neither Arun, nor Puyal nor I spoke a word as we entered. But the Concierge did. "Bar is closed.", he said. Now how did he know ? It was probably Puyal's long-hairdo and dope-eyed look. They'd probably serve him Toddy, even if he went to a free-food camp.

Romallee was fantabulous. To serve beer after 2330hrs. To treat us to amazing fish masala at 0100hrs. And to play Hindi tracks one after the other. Arun added another year on the 23rd. Puyal will, on the 27th. I, probably will, never grow up..

Friday, June 24, 2005

They screened Frédéric Leroux' Jour de chance today. All the films screened at the festival seem to have sudden twists in their plot. This one was about a Tramp who moves around scavenging for food in dustbins and gets turned away from there as well..

It got worse. He enters a Supermart to exchange stuff (most probably food) for the Special Voucher he has found. The Store security gives him only 5mins to make his purchase. In between, an Assistant at the Confectionery offers a complimentary Cookie to the hungry man, which too is snapped up by the Security Guard.

He languorously makes his way to the Cashier, when another customer rudely overtakes him saying he doesn't have all day. Eventually, the Cashier trashes his Voucher because its invalid.

I had already lost my appetite for dinner.

All this was in black & white. The shot then changed to colour and some TV Presenter walks up to the Tramp and announces him as the 1,00,0000th customer at the Store. So he gets a million euros and a villa and a leather-interiored car and..

I started clapping. I was the only idiot to clap in the silence, characteristic of a special screening. People probably thought I was kiddish, but I really wanted something nice to happen to the poor man.

Meanwhile, the rude customer who had overtaken the Tramp comes up and says that the prize is actually his, because he had overtaken the man out-of-turn. It was hilarious to have the Presenter announce an XL T-shirt and a shiny watch with a leather strap for the disgruntled man.

The sad part is, that all this (the Tramp winning a jackpot) was only part of a low-budget shoot to promote the Store. I don't know why they involved the Tramp, because it wasn't clear if he was paid anything. Or if he in the shoot by accident. They show the crew asking the Tramp to leave because the Store shall be opening and there shall be customers soon.

Me thinks the movie should have ended with the Tramp winning the fortune of a lifetime, nevermind how and why he's initially in such a pitiable condition. But then, they had to twist something. Really creative, though.


Marc Fitoussi's Illustre inconnue was another lovely film. This one was about a Manga Voice-artist (played by Marilyne Canto), who wants to make her lucky break as an actress.

She struggles real hard and gets an opportunity to prove herself in a screen-test. She is, however, turned down because she has to play a Nun. And the Casting Director thinks she doesn't fit the bill because she wore make-up and is a non-believer.

The lovely Marilyne Canto in Illustre inconnue

She gets news of another Director looking for a young actress and conspires to steal the script this time, in order to be better prepared. Her enthusiasm and keenness is something I would have encouraged. All this while the movie illustrates what lengths this Lady is willing to go to, to further her ambition. Most of her activities are quite harmless, me thinks.

At the venue of the screen-test, she even bribes a stranger into approaching her for an autograph. The Man was to make an entry when she is in conversation with the famed producer inside. Its all set and decided, and the plot doesn't surprise, when the stranger turns out to be the Director himself.

But the inevitable twist. I'd be in awe of a person who's tried so hard. She could have used more honest means, though. She doesn't make it.

And she returns to the studio as a Voice-over artist. The Manga script closes with her dubbing the voice of a woman who has been a failure.

I was thrilled to watch these films, despite all the irony.


Another fantastic story was Emmanuel Malka's Une vie en l’air. About hired labourers who risk their lives to excavate Saturn's inhospitable moon Titan. The story of how Men break down after not having met their loved ones on Earth in years. And the tale of a man who yearns to return to his wife and daughter after spending five years on a moon. All this to make money to pay-off his father's debts.

Enter cost-cutting and constraints on transportation. The man now has to shell out 3,00,000 units of currency to officially return to Earth. That is 3/4th of his savings of 5years.

But he has to return. And some unscrupulous rocket pilots assure him a place as a stowaway aboard the spacecraft for a smaller, yet substantial sum. He has to, of course, trust the pilots, for he shall lose consciousness during the transit.

Of course, they make a mockery of the word 'Trust'. But the end is even more gross. He's deserted with his baggage on some rundown spacestation. He somehow salvages the only photo of his wife and daughter, and the corrosive atmosphere fades out the coating on the photo almost instantaneously. The film closes with the wife and daughter's last transmission to the Man.. 'At last.. At last..'

I was in the open. But I needed water. And even more, more fresh air. And mebbe a huge hug.