Thursday, 16 December 2010

Adios Amigos

(This piece was published in The Indian Express on May 21 1999. I was doing my schooling back then, so forgive the amateur in me).

The exams are over. The vacations have set in. School life has come to an end and thinking of it sends a chill through my spine. Life is going to take a new turn.

School life is so beautiful with no worries, no tensions…..

How can I forget the days when I enjoyed life with my friends, teasing our friends and foes alike. But we had the greatest regard for them in our hearts. But then, what is life without some fun……

Our board exams are all over. Whenever I think of my results, fear grips me. If they are good then, that will be the last gift we can give to our school.

Well, moving one step forward makes me happy. Anyway, there can’t be a soul on this earth who hates to dream of a career and of course, make that dream come true.

But as one moves ahead, more responsibilities and more worries come one’s way. And handling responsibilities is the one thing I have always hated.

And that is what college life is all about. It is altogether a different world. There will be no teachers to bother us with their advice. It becomes necessary for a person to manage everything by himself/herself. It is also a life full of fantasies and even though there’s a lot of fun in it, I simply don’t have the courage to get separated from my friends, teachers and above all my school.

Making new friends is my hobby but parting with old friends makes me sad and it is this sadness, which has driven me crazy enough to write this article to YES.

Hey, but life is all about meeting and parting. We meet as strangers and part as friends. We meet to create memories and part to remember them. Don’t we?

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Thumbs Down for Perambur Sangeetha

Having frequented the Sangeetha restaurant at Adayar and R.A.Puram, one would expect similar standards of quality at any of its branches in Chennai. However, it’s a harrowing experience at Perambur Sangeetha. Not only is the restaurant small, over-crowded and noisy, the service is pathetic.

As one of the members in our group was suffering from severe cold, we had to stop ourselves from entering the AC hall. Assuming the service would be equally good at the non-Ac hall, we all settled at one of the empty tables and placed orders for Panner 65, Gobi Manchurian and Noodles. It was around 8 in the evening, so all of us expected the availability of these items. Much to our astonishment, the server with a mocking grin informed that the variety we were looking for was not available and hence we would have to settle for the South Indian cuisine. Since most of us are Southies and are used to eating the South Indian food on a regular basis we wanted a change of menu. The server though was bent on offering only the South Indian fare! He said it would take a minimum of half-an-hour as the North Indian food was cooked and served only at the AC hall. Boy, did he have some kind of aversion for the North Indian and Chinese cuisine, I wondered.

Since the North Indian and Chinese dishes are costlier than their counterpart, I thought the waiter would be glad to serve the dishes without delay. But this waiter was doing nothing to increase the sales of one of the well-known restaurants in the city. He kept replying negatively to whatever requests we made. Finally, we had to ask him what was available at the joint. He answered that all the South Indian dishes were available along with Parathas and Chola Batturas. We heaved a sigh of relief and opted for Chola Batturas with Gobi curry. Instead, just after 10 minutes, we were given Dosas stuffed with Tomato and onion. Wondering what was happening, we clarified to the waiter that the order was actually placed for Chola Batturas. “Sorry madam, I heard it as Dosas” and he scurried away to the next table even before we could respond. Then, we saw him walking in the direction of other servers and winking at them, who seemed to enjoy the drama happening much to our disbelief.

We left the restaurant frowning and promising never to visit the restaurant again.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Bollywood Shredding

(This article of mine was published on Friday, March 15, 2002, in Youth Express, a supplement that comes with The New Indian Express.

I may appear to be a ruthless critic of Bollywood movies but trust me I am the biggest fan of these movies. There can’t be a happier person than me when I see quality movies being produced by the Bollywood industry now on a regular basis. Bollywood truly has come of age! Hope you will enjoy reading this article. Please note it's written in a lighter vein).

The other day I committed a blunder by going for the movie Yaadein. I had resolved not to frequent theatres and fritter my money on dumb Hindi movies but that day, my wisdom failed to prevail upon me and I found myself along with my friend in the theatre.

Fifteen minutes into the movie, I was convinced that Yaadein was a modest entertainer, showcasing swanky mansions but definitely endurable. But another ten minutes into the movie, I began fretting and by interval I was fuming and seething with rage. We returned home absolutely bereft of any yaadeins of Yaadein.

Bollywood directors, especially Yash Chopra and Subash Ghai, specialize in making successful movies out of thin story lines and jaded themes. The latest to join Chopra’s clan is Karan Johar of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai fame. His latest extravaganza Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Ghum boasts of Bollywood’s biggest names coming together. But scratch beneath the gloss and glitz, and we discover hollowness in these movies. To put it bluntly, they provide cheap entertainment!

These Hindi movies sport a subtitle too these days. If Yaadien had ‘Memories to Cherish’ as its tag line then Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Ghum was not far behind either. ‘It’s all about loving your parents’ is indeed impressive. If one goes by these catchy phrases then he/she will undergo the highest test of their endurance capacity.

All these movies celebrate the invincible spirit of love. To back it there are a few sleazy dances by skimpily clad damsels. Thrown in are bombastic dialogues, which only unleash a ruthless assault on our ears. As if this wasn’t enough, we have to endure the high-voltage, gamut of emotions that our characters go through. Accent on trite themes such as love triangle, the so-called ever-lasting bond and moral values in an Indian family set-up show no signs of abating. And to think these directors amass crores(not to mention the star-status that goes with it)!

The only exceptions in recent years were Lagaan and Dil Chahta Hai. If Ashutosh Gowariker captured the hearts of rural India, then Frarhan Akhtar had the urbane-yuppie generation go ga-ga over his flick. It’s indeed a relieving thought that we have a handful of directors with an inclination to experiment. It is however, the irrepressible old folks (Ghai, Chopra and their ilk) who continue to torment us.

Another fact that has gripped our filmmakers is the ‘last minute break-up of a marriage.’ Its origin can be traced back to Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and is still scrupulously followed. Even Akhtar in his Dil Chahta Hai failed to do away with this particular feature.

Good news this year is that Nagesh Kukunoor’s (remember Hyderabad Blues?) Bollywood Calling, a parody on Bollywood, would bring a new lease of life into these staid environs. More importantly, teach a lesson to all those over-rated, assuming and undeserving directors.

Chennai roads suck

Though roads in our city are wide and broad enabling more number of vehicles to ply, they are strewn with pebbles, and are full of pits and potholes. During rains it’s a nightmare to drive on the streets of Chennai as the rainwater and sewage water gets mixed causing high inconvenience to people. It’s a balancing act for the drivers of two-wheelers as they try to negotiate the deep puddles of water. It’s sad to find some of the arterial roads in Adayar, Thiruvanmiyur, Besant Nagar and Indira Nagar in the city being in such a pathetic state. Now these areas are considered to be some of the posh colonies in the city! Besant Nagar is home to the most happening beach in our city and yet the connecting road from Indira Nagar to Shastri Nagar gets washed away even when it rains slightly. Remember the beach is an important tourist destination generating reasonable revenue for our Government.

Its quite appalling to find other prominent roads at Kamraj Nagar and Kalashetra road that is home to one of the finest schools of art and culture in a bad shape. Now Kalashetra road not only has some beautiful houses but also boasts of some lovely temples and also has the Art of Living centre located. With regard to Thiruvanmyur, the less said the better.

Roads near the IT corridor of Tharamani, Velachery, Perungudi and Sholinganallur are yet to improve. To think these areas are home to some of the best IT companies!

If roads in some of the best localities in the city are in such a miserable state, one shudders to think of the condition of our roads in suburbs and the outskirts of the city

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Besotted with Bessy in Chennai

What has Chennai got to offer me? That was the first question, which popped in my head as I left Hyderabad forever. Unbearable heat, dusty lanes, littered streets, noisy buses, haggling auto drivers was how I perceived Chennai to be. And I guess that’s the general opinion of many people, who have not lived or don’t stay in Chennai. To many people, the city means horrible weather, watery mess during rainy days, crazy traffic and long, backbreaking journeys. With so many negatives, it’s easy not to notice the positives of this wonderful city, which is also perhaps the most underrated city in India. Just like the people of the city, Chennai lacks pretence and stands out for its simplicity and unique cultural identity.

As much as techies would love this city for the plethora of jobs it provides, people who enjoy good music, food and culture in its purest form will rate Chennai very high. The city is a big no-no for snobs and fashion followers. However, the USP of Chennai is the vast, sandy beaches that provide its “makkal” with the much needed space, breeze, entertainment making up for all the negatives that are mentioned above. Among the beaches, the Elliot's beach in Besant Nagar, which is lovingly called “Bessy beach” by the yuppies in that area endears itself to most of the visitors. With a variety of restaurants and shops dotting it, the beach caters to the different needs of people. There are some exceptionally good eat outs for the foodie in you, well-laid pavements for strollers, umpteen “bajji’ stalls for bajji lovers, cozy corners for cupids, quiet spaces for star gazers, loners and contemplators, and fun zones for the youngsters.

Being a regular at the Bessy beach, I see people enjoying long walks late in the night without worrying about eve-teasing or chain snatching, thanks to the reasonable security cover. When hungry, they drop in at any of the eating joints and emerge back recharged only to slouch on the high-rise pavements and resume their conversations. Then, there are “Damaru” sellers, flower sellers, magazine sellers, peanut/sundal sellers and self-proclaimed future prophesiers adding to the hue. A particular Qwality walls icecream cart seller switches on the FM music station at full volume attracting music lovers like me, thereby also making some brisk sales. The beach on Saturdays and Sundays is crowded and noisy but on weekdays it is calm. One can unwind by taking in the vastness of the sea, eavesdropping on some rare intellectual discussions happening outside Barista coffee shop opposite the beach and just chilling out watching some teenagers practising guitar lessons with their friends.

A few months back there was beach volleyball played with participants from different parts of the world. The beach also hosts cultural programmes like folk dances regularly. Some time back before the ‘Krishna Janmaashtmi,’ there were bhajans sung by the ISCON group as they kept distributing pamphlets about the upcoming event and celebration in their temple.

Bessy beach has not only been a witness to love stories but also to sordid tales of separation. An acquaintance who was committed to his woman was shell-shocked when she broke up with him near the Karl Schmidt memorial on the beach. When asked if he has stopped going to the beach entirely, he answered that the beach was his only solace during those depressing days. Just like the waves on the Bessy beach her thoughts will keep coming and receding, he confessed. And just like the beach, he said he will evolve, move on and accept the changes in his life. Though I found his analogy insensible, I could sense how much the Bessy beach has inspired and influenced him giving the necessary strength to move on in his life.