Thursday, January 26, 2006 4 reflections

India Diversified - Republic Day 2006 Special

ಗಣರಾಜ್ಯೋತ್ಸವದ ಹಾರ್ಧಿಕ ಶುಭಾಶಯಗಳು.
गणतंत्रता दिवस कि हार्दिक शुभकामनाए।

Wishing everyone a very Happy Republic Day.

(The image is a wallpaper I had designed last year denoting the diverse cultures that make India so unique. Please click on the image to view the whole version.)
Tuesday, January 24, 2006 0 reflections

A patriot (the search continues)

It is a sleepy railway station in a nameless and dusty little town somewhere in Northern India. The smoke that the train emits as it grinds to a moaning halt is only overpowered by the chaos that engulfs the air inside the station. The mood is sober and smeared with the rays of the sun giving up on this part of the earth. A young boy not more than 12 years old runs to each of the open windows trying to a sell cup of water for 25 paisa. Most of them reject his offer despite the heat wave that sweeps across the platforms. He looks around for a while, all the time yelling at the top of his innocent voice, “1 glass for 25 paisa! 1 glass for 25 paisa!” and stops at a particular window. "1 glass for 25 paisa! Please take some water, sa'ab." he says to the man sitting by that window. The man nods and buys the water and drinks it from the clay pot it is in. For the first time in India after 12 long years away from his motherland, the man drinks unbottled water. For the first time in his life as an aeronautics engineer working for the top brass in the United States, Mohan Bhargava has found grief. Feeling helpess, he weeps not for himself but for the state of his land…his home.

The tired old father says “Speak to me in Kannada, my son. It has been so long since I have heard the language.” to his Hindi born and bred young son for the first time in his life. The shock the son receives when he realizes he is a Kannadiga sends a stream of energy down our throat and into the pit of our belly. Shankar gives up a potentially sparkling career and brilliant prospects to return to his roots. A root he had never known of his whole life is now the only reason he exists. He gears up to face all odds to get back his land…his home.

The sands of the desert wave past the humble and innocent villagers. The arrogant British officer smirks at these uneducated folk with a challenge they had never heard of. He is convinced they know nothing beyond what they see and are nothing more than animals. His pride is in keeping these illiterates at the nose of his foot. Bhuvan stands watching the pride from the office’s face transform into a rage that has kept him quiet all these years of slavery. The rage enters Bhuvan’s body and illuminates his heart and mind thus igniting the beginning of the end for the British Raj. He accepts the impossible seeming and potentially lethal challenge without a blink. He has found himself in that moment of naked truth. A truth which will either destroy him or save him. But he is going to go with it anyway for the sake of his land…his home.

In the face of injustice and vain, these people found their truth. The truth that lies in their compact soul and has transformed them into unforgettable individuals. These are the images that stir us in the moment and leave an impact so long lasting that we think of them every day. We can pretend not to be moved by these scenes; we can go on and declare how it was nothing more than a passing cloud. But the truth remains that we all think about them in our subconscious self. We appreciate what they did for our country even if they were fictitious. We celebrate their onscreen accomplishments by appreciating them off screen. We acknowledge the truth they brought in front of us even if it was just for three minutes of our life. Three magical minutes that can make or break a nation’s future. No matter where we are in the world, no matter what we do for a living and no matter how we see our mother nation. We all need to keep reminding ourselves of those three minutes of truth that once sparkled on a screen somewhere and left images in our hearts forever. Sharing the feel of a patriot is what today world lacks is. Being patriotic is no longer considered trendy.

Two of my close friends and I stood at the musical fountain in the Krishna Raja Sagar water parks in Mysore City recently. We were applauding ‘Saare jahaan se achcha…” till our hands went red and our throats were dry. We were proud of our nation and we were proud to be Indians. But as we looked around us we had a realization. Not one other person in that 500 something crowd was following suit. We could not help but look at each other in shame since we had realized what the word ‘patriotic’ has translated in today’s India. We might not be as great as Mohan, Shankar and Bhuvan but we are no less than them either. We have not let the exposure to a foreign lifestyle affect what our hearts yearn for. We are not the ones standing quiet when we should be celebrating a song that celebrates India herself.

I stood up in front of my laptop one day in my empty apartment when I saw a rendition of the ‘Jana Gana Mana…”. My eyes welled up towards the end as Pandit Bhimsen Joshi brought the memories of my country back to me again. My voice choked as Lata Mangeshkarji and Asha Bhonsleji paid tribute to her soul. Was anyone watching? Yes…the truth that resides in me. The truth I like to call India…my mother.

My wondering in this whole scene is the following. Do we need an inspiration to applaud our own country? Or are we so used to being ‘silently patriotic’ that any public display of our undying love for the nation suddenly seems too tacky? Celebrate India my friends. Celebrate her for what she is. Celebrate her for what she was. Celebrate her for everything she stands for. Do not be afraid or shy away from her presence. It does not matter where you live, it does not matter what you do, carry her with you everywhere you go. Tell everyone you know about her. Show everyone her faces. Find that truth that lies inside you. Find that light that will always burn in the chambers of your heart. The light that brought peace to Mohan, Shankar and Bhuvan will one day help you find your land...your home.

Jai Hind!

Sunday, January 22, 2006 2 reflections

Remaking Karnataka

People have been writing about this till they went blue in the face but nothing seems to be making a difference. And why should it? It is like dowry. As long as there are people ready to give, there will be more people drooling to accept. I have been to many sources both online and offline regarding this issue and I can’t really come to a conclusion. The reason why I needed to vent this out is so that others who agree or disagree with me can plug in their two cents about the same.

The issue at hand is the ‘remake-fever’ that has flooded Kannada movie industry in the past few years. Movies and India are like Siamese twins. If you remove one from the other chances are both will die or suffer from major consequences. The social fabric that holds India together has a lot to be thankful to her movies. Quoted as the largest producer of feature films in the world, India is slowly but surely gaining her well deserved place in the international scene. People’s lives are influenced by movies in India. Trends are set and a social awareness is brought about. I wonder if most of the producers and directors realize this at all since their movies certainly do not seem to take care of this parameter. A good amount of movies released every year in Karnataka are remakes of their southern or other counterparts. What makes this situation worse is almost all of these ‘Kannada versions’ are declared super hits. This, thus, becomes one vicious never ending cycle of ‘derived creativity’.

Things were not always like this you know. Growing up I had my share of some excellent and original cinema in Kannada. Movies like ‘Muttina Haara’, ‘Sharapanjara’, ‘Belli Moda’, ‘Naagarahaavu’ are just a few that cross my mind. Movies that not only spoke about the social disrepair that plagued the society but also created unforgettable characters in ‘Ramachari’ and his spiritual guide ‘Meshtru’. Scenes of a harmless old man falling from a steep in an attempt to save his student do not leave you. Scenes of a frustrated Kalpana tearing off a couch with her teeth as her helpless and pathetic husband watches in despair narrates a woman’s fight against her inner and outer demons. Scenes of a mother who has just lost her child to war runs to dig him up from his grave as her heartbroken husband comforts here bring a tear to your eye.

These scenes depicted people who are like you and me. They told us stories that were homegrown and came directly from the heart of a storyteller who wanted to share with us his/her self. This…was what Kannada movies were made of and hence are etched in our hearts for as long as we live. Now tell me how many such movies you can recall in the last five years. Too hard? I will make it easier for you. Last three years. Oh! Still no good? No problem. How about just last year? One? Two? None? Is it me or do you also see the sad state of pool we all dwell in?

We cannot blame the producers for their greed. They are people who want to make a living and if it means polishing off a ‘readymade script’ from a successful movie then so be it! We cannot even blame the directors and music team for the same reason. They don’t know any better so why call them the bad guys? An easy entity to be blamed here could be the actors themselves. They get paid crores of rupees to play the exact the same role that someone else did just a few months ago. What saddens me is the so called ‘legends’ of today’s cinema publicly declaring that they do not mind doing remake movies. Why should they? They do not have a choice. Either do a remake movie or sit home watching your old ones. They opt for the one that pays. Their argument is “Why should our people be denied the joy other people got in their language?” The less I react to this attitude the better.

WE – are the real culprits in this situation. In fact we are pretending to be ignorant (since I know for a fact that we are not) to such an extent that we now look forward to which movie is being remade as a Kannada movie. We proclaim without even a blink that the current super hit in Kannada was remade from the movie XYZ in ABC language. I am glad legends like Puttana Kanagal are not around to be part of this catastrophe since it would be an insult to those great people.

What irks me about this scene is that some ‘true-blue Kannadigas’ on the one hand are yelling at the top of their lungs that Kannada and its culture is vanishing from the state. On the other hand they are the ones dancing at the 100 days party of a remade movie. Can we possibly be more hypocritical? If we are to call ourselves truly patriotic about our state and land, then stop watching these remade movies. Stop shelling out our hard earned money to these cheap and shameless movie makers who are taking us for a ride without our own knowledge! Stop embarrassing ourselves in front of the nation by being a ‘remake chitra’ naaDu instead of hemmeya karunaaDu. Only then, will that starving creative writer, who roams the streets of Chamarajapet with a wet towel on his head looking for a producer or a director, find true justice. Only then will those nameless faces who sit in the dark waiting for a revolution come forward and give us one more Ramachari and one more memorable moment in Kannada cinema. Only then will the true step towards ‘saving our state and culture’ begin. Until then all one we can continue doing is blame non Kannadigas on the one hand and keep inviting non Kannada cinema on the other. We definitely got our priorities straight. (?)

Another argument to this can be “What do you expect people to do if that is the only Kannada movie option they have?” Fair enough. The only expectation from people in that case would be to take a strong hold, and to reaffirm my original stand, boycott such movies. Munnabhai MBBS became BDMS, SSLC, PUC and finally just plain BS. And that is just because we have learnt to live with it. One gets used to the darkness if there is no light around. Unfortunately in this case, the light is not outside….but within each one of us.

In conclusion, this issue probably has more questions than answers. If we are looking forward to a bright future for Kannada, then we have no other option except reflecting on our past. No branch will ever grow to dizzying heights if it does not acknowledge the root that holds it there. If we are not part of the solution, then we are part of the problem. In this case quite possibly the problem itself.

Friday, January 20, 2006 18 reflections

How did Dr.Rajkumar become God?

Dr.Rajkumar is a well known and well respected legend in the Kannada movie industry whom we lost recently. He is an idol who had personified good and clean cinema in Karnataka and India. A man with a high standard of living. Someone a mere mortal like myself dare not attempt to describe in words. Famed performers from other regions too have a lot of regard to this down-to-earth man who led a simple life despite his overwhelming fame. I have always admired him and being a Kannadiga myself, take a lot of pride in calling Dr.Raj a Kannadiga as well. The story I am about to narrate is a real incident and will feature Dr.Raj in a very unique role. But wait...what has that got to do with him becoming God? Read on.

This event took place in 2003. My third consecutive year of stay in Caracas city, Venezuela. For those who are weak in geography like myself (heck..I thought it was in Africa for starters!) Venezuela is the northern most country in the Latin American continent sandwiched between Brazil and Colombia. It was a hot Saturday afternoon and I was on my way home as usual with the four something rather bulky bags of groceries. Though my apartment is at a walking distance to the supermarket where I shop, I could not imagine climbing up the steep roads of Las Mercedes (the neighborhood I live in) that we have in Caracas with a rather furious sun above. Hence like most sane people, I decided to hail a taxi.

Once inside like most sane taxi walahs, our dear man started his very graphic 'tantrum tour' at the traffic jams. To make the wait more pleasant he decided to talk to me.

This is where the story needs a little background information. Venezuela (and most of the Latin American continent) speaks Spanish. I am from Bangalore, India. You do the math. Although I spoke a little Spanish myself, I usually restricted my vocabulary to "Si." which means "Yes" in Spanish. Some wise person once told me that when in a foreign country's cab, always agree with the cab driver and everything will be fine. That is exactly what I planned to do here.

Considering our linguistic differences our conversation went something like this...

Taxi walah: "So where are you from?"

Me: "India"

Taxi walah: "Oh wow! India....huh.....Sai Baba....Mother Teresa....Gandhi..."

Me: "Yes. I know them all. Nice people."

Taxi walah: "You of my friends visited India a few years ago...diverse culture....lot of people...."

Me: "Really! Yes. That is amazing."

Taxi walah: "Nueva Delhi.....Bumbaai...Tamaha...."

Me: "Tamaha..?"

Taxi walah: "Yes! Yes! Made of pure marble!"

Me: "Oh! Taj Mahal! Yes. It sure is a spectacle. In fact...."

He conveniently interrupted me and continued.

Taxi walah: "Bumbaloor..."

Wait. Did he just say what I thought he did? Or was it that I was hearing voices from within my head. Here I was sweating my tail off in the middle of the chaos that Caracas is with a load of supplies that I need for a survival and this guy mentions something sounding like Bangalore! I could not believe my ears. Initially I thought I was hallucinating since the heat was pretty intense. So I decided to confirm that thought.

Me: "Ban-galore?" I said with a pause so that he got the name right.

Taxi walah: "Yes! Yes! Bamgaloor...."

I could not help but smile at the very mention of my roots from this non-English speaking foreigner.

Me: "Very well. I am from that city too."

Taxi walah: (Not even pretending to care) " you have lots of Gods, yes?"

Me: "Well...yes. We have them all stocked up in case of emergencies..." (in my mind I was throwing myself at every God's feet I knew for being so arrogant. I am a God fearing man you see.)

Taxi walah: "Krisssneee...."

Me: "Krishna?"

Taxi walah: "Yes! Yes! Krichna!"

Me: "My last name is Krishna. Common practice in India to keep names after Gods. Of course, common practice that the person is never remotely related to his name hence I have terrible luck with girls...."

I chuckled nervously hoping he would see the humor. He did not.

Taxi walah: "Krichnee....Krichnee.....I have a picture!"

His child-like enthusiasm actually got my attention now. I wanted to know what it is he had as 'God' from India since lately almost every foreigner I had met seemed to know more about our Gods than most of us.

He looked around in his glove compartment and fished out a rather weak looking photograph which seemed to have been losing color due to over usage.

He twisted it around so that I could get a better look. That moment has been etched in my memory for as long as I shall live and breathe. Never before in my 6 years abroad had I experienced such joy , astonishment, confusion, sadness, homesickness all at the same time. The roller coaster ride of emotions I took that day has been a part of me since.

There in the middle of the taxi of a guy whose name I did not a time when I had lost all hope of meeting anyone from India anytime soon let alone Bangalore.....smiling back at me was none other than.....Lord Krishna? Nope. The one and only Dr.Rajkumar! Yes..the man himself dressed up like Lord Krishna from one of his many devotional movies.

Any true blue blooded Kannadiga would have felt the same rush I did in that hot afternoon's super hot event in that taxi. Whoever said cab rides were a bore had clearly not been through an experience like mine. I did not know how to react as the rather excited cabbie kept rubbing that photo in my face going "Yes?Yes? Krichneee yes?"

I had a spiritual awakening in that moment. I was at a genuine crossroad for the first time in my foreign life. On the one hand I could laugh in his face and tell him what a fool someone had made his sad little friend in Bangalore by giving him a photograph of Dr.Raj and passing it off as the Almighty. On the other, I could be responsible for helping this guy keep his faith on this unknown Indian God who he thought had been pretty helpful in his life. I mean...what are the odds of him finding out it was Dr.Raj anyway, I thought.

I took a deep breathe, smiled and nodded my headed in approval.

Me: "Yes. That is Lord Krishna. Good looking God. Yes?"

Thursday, January 19, 2006 2 reflections

A rendezvous with a raindrop

Lord Krishna, one of the most beloved and celebrated representations of the Almighty in the Hindu mythology, was born a human. He underwent the same cycle of life we all do - infancy, adolescence, adulthood, middle age, old age and finally death - to spread the message of love and to bring end to evil. He too fell sick perhaps. He too got hurt perhaps. He too bled. He too had his heart in so many places - with the mother who brought Him up, with the mother who gave birth to Him, with the eternally hopeful Radha, with the blissfully unaware Bhama, in his poor friend Sudhaama's alms and his cousin Balarama's prowess. If His heart was with the Pandavas for the injustice they were fighting, His heart was probably more with the Kauravas to support them in shedding their dark side. With the bow of an ignorant hunter came the end of Lord Krishna, who died silently somewhere in a forest due to a common man's mistake.

For as long as time has been witness, the experiences we undergo in this cycle is not different from that of Lord Krishna. His love is our love. His pain is exactly the way ours is. The emotional roller coaster He rode is the one we ride every day. As the rain droplets stick so passionately to my window this dark evening, I cannot help but use them as a metaphor for my emotions. The way the droplets of my good and bad days cling for their dear lives to my heart. One of the issues humans have had to deal with is trying to ignore these droplets. When a heart breaks somewhere, it automatically translates into a bitter experience. But why should it be so? What happens then is they allow this momentary sadness to loom large on their months...maybe years of happiness. Moments that once defined who they were now no longer exist. They become droplets that you barely see on the window when your real focus is the bitter rain outside. Would breaking of true love become less painful if we took care of the droplets? Would it make the existence of the painful rain become obselete? Maybe....maybe not. But the real question is have we even tried?

Lord Krishna broke so many hearts and had His heart broken so many times. He lived and died a human being when it came to matters of the heart. But the one lesson He tried to impart in the Bhagavata Geeta was that life is well spent if the droplets clinging to the window of our heart are taken care of. The rain outside is what is obvious. The rain outside is what you feel. The rain outside is what is chaos. But it is the droplets of these small memories we have created along the way that make way for the sunshine of tomorrow.

Lord Krishna kept track of all those droplets in His lifetime on this earth. The only hope we have is that we can come remotely close to doing the same. Only then...will there be the true victory over the evil that pours outside our windows.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 1 reflections

Ondu Blaagina Kathe (A Blog's Story)

To view this article you need to have Kannada fonts installed on your machine. If you do not, then you will most probably see bizarre characters. To install one of these fonts please click here.



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Tuesday, January 17, 2006 2 reflections