Sunday, November 28, 2010

Great journalism happens

In the pursuit of journalistic excellence, you can often find me willing to go to any lengths to chase a story if the travel is paid for and the food and accommodation are free.

I confess. The only reason I even agreed to cover a car and bike race for an automobile magazine was that the event was scheduled at Bengaluru, where my darling now stays. “You’re coming HERE?” she squealed when I told her the happy news.

“Yes,” I said, wondering if I really was.

“You are?” she said in a hushed voice, wondering too.

“Yes,” I said, but I don’t think I was convincing enough. The husband looked fit to faint when I told him about it, and that I was actually turning the idea over in my head.

“Very good. You should get out more often,” he said sagely.

Hmph. One would think I was pale white from hiding in the house. (If you must know, my complexion is creamy.)

Then I started to think about more pressing matters, viz How, in the name of arse, was I going to cover a bike race?

Some footnotes may be in order at this point:
1. The question (How, in the name of arse, was I going to cover a bike race?) arose primarily because I know squat about any automobiles. (When I say ‘squat’, I mean ‘jack’.) If you asked me to deliberate on the subject, all I could tell you about any kind of automobile was that the buses in Mumbai were red and that my dad owns a Ford Ikon.

2. And also that I think the Tato Nano, in any colour, looks like it belongs in a cartoon film.

3. I cannot, even at my intelligent best, tell one car from another. Ditto for bikes.

4. I can, however, tell a car apart from a bike. I am not a total idiot.

And so I went to Bangalore.

The sister thought I would probably describe what I saw there as, “Some big white car with a green sticker on one side won the race.” I rather think she rolled her eyes when I scoffed at this line of thought. Well, har har. In keeping with my usual work ethic, I was extremely precise, clinical and unbiased while reporting the event. I append a critical paragraph from my as-yet unfinished draft, to illustrate aforementioned precision, clinicality and unbiasedpana:

‘_______ (insert name the moment you learn what it is) won what everyone kept referring to as the Dissel Wopen, and which proved to be, on thorough analysis and much sifting of official documents, the Diesel Open category. The winner was such a show-off about his victory that he came out of his car smirking all over his loathsome face and patting his own back, thereby riling certain sections of the crowd. This correspondent heard somebody on her right say, and she quotes, “Xjuouirljiuon melaiab wandapandi.” Translated from Kannada, this means, “Kitna shaanpatti kar rela hai, gaandu.”’

The hearing has still not been restored in my left ear, which was the ear closest to the start point, since I spent most of my time looking at the racers whizzing past. I keep getting Kannada flashbacks even in my sleep. I do not want to look at another idli for the remainder of my life. And the opening line of my piece really reads, ‘Some big white car with a green sticker on one side won the race.’ But the trip was fun and highly educational. If given a chance to do something like this again, I will certainly take it, provided it is in Bangalore.

And now I must go write the story before the editor decides to remind me. He says December 2 is my deadline, and though that is AGES away, I can see I have lost all my notes. Besides, I have other pressing matters to look into now that I’m back in Mumbai, such as What I should order for lunch.

Did I hear you say, “Xjuouirljiuon melaiab wandapandi”?

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Jaya wanted a set of gold bangles for her birthday. Sumit thought that was too extravagant.

All day she complained about his lack of consideration. Never once to him, but to her friends at work. "I mean, come on," she said in tones of deep frustration. "I get him whatever he wants before he even says the word. Can't he do this much for me?"

"Men, men," one of them said in a commiserating voice, but the girl quickly flashed a look, part gleeful, part gloating, at another woman in the circle.

"So anyway, nothing for me this birthday," Jaya sniffed. She looked balefully at the sabzi in her lunch box, then said, "Anyway he'll just forget the day. I'm not reminding him again this year."

So in a disturbed state of mind a full three weeks before her birthday, Jaya persuaded herself that her thirty third would be the worst birthday ever. In the history of birthdays. In the history of history, as Po would say.

On the morning of her birthday, Sumit was nowhere to be seen. She called his cellphone, but it rang in their bedroom. Wondering if he'd suddenly decided to get back to his exercise regimen, she glared at herself in the mirror as she brushed her teeth. If her mouth hadn't been so full of toothpaste, she might have screwed up her mouth and howled. My birthday and he's not even home.

Then he returned. In his work clothes. With a bouquet of red roses in one hand and a box of chocolates in the other. And as he took her in his arms and she laughed as he twirled her around the living room in a practiced dance, she closed her eyes and thought, "He really didn't get me bangles."

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A story.

I think nobody knows how it started. They say that no partnership is ever equal, especially when one (or both) has dreams and ambitions separate from the other.

How awful, though. One morning he recounted a long anecdote about somebody eyeing his promotion at the end of the month, and not once, not for a second, did he realise that she kept her face hidden behind the newspaper. Not because she was reading it, but because she couldn't let the tears show. She kept saying, "Hmm," and "Really?" at really interesting points in his narrative, a habit born of years of listening on autopilot, and he did not notice even once the inflection in her voice.

What was more awful? That lately he does not even notice that she falls asleep in a second, sometimes too quickly. That she reaches out for a book the moment he sails into the bedroom, that sometimes she's holding the book upside down in what could have been a really funny situation had it not been for the tremble in her hands. That she does the dishes with increased violence each day, that she has less and less to say to him as each week passes on the calender.

He has his grievances, too. But he says not a word.

He does not notice. She does not see a thing. Love blinds.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nothing matters

And that is scary. At least, it used to be.

I blamed it all on inertia. On the fact that I wasn't as active as I used to be, on the fact that I had quit my job for reasons which seemed lofty at the time. And which seem demented now, but whatever.

There was an inertia phase, but only at first. Then it melted into total and complete indifference. Not a nice thing to have on your slate, indifference. Not healthy for a marriage. Not healthy for relationships. Not healthy at all, for anyone, for anything, for you.

But oh, what shall we do?

Never mind. Que sera sera.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Ye Gods!

Nothing, I tell you, NOTHING fills you with happiness and quiet pride like the glow of achievement, however small and insignificant.

I have been in such a good mood lately, I haven't once yelled at the cat who invades my terrace at 10 p.m. every night, fixing me with an insolent stare before it retreats into the darkness of the neighbouring terrace. May be once my good mood fades a bit, I can go back to kicking at it and threatening it with my mosquito bat, which doesn't seem to impress it much anyway.

I am also cooking more, eating enthusiastically, and my neck has finally healed. Suffice it to say that I am really happy after such a long time.

Also, my husband is the best guy in the world. Smartest thing I did was marry him.

Bye for now.

Monday, August 9, 2010


After two moments of delirious happiness, I am back to the waiting game.

I swear I have not waited for anything for this long. Keep you posted, people.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Once again

My life is on hold. Because I am chasing a dream.

I would like to be braver, but I am not. Very scared, and very humbled by the extent of my fears.

I want to come out of the dark. How long, how long...?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

It was Bleeaarrgghh.

If you must know, Rajneeti the film sucks donkey balls.

And because Katrina Kaif's famous speech is being written about for about a year now, (how she took Hindi lessons and insisted on dubbing for it herself yada yada yada) I almost cried with frustration on seeing the speech scene. Katrina Kaif is surely pretty, but strictly teak wood in the acting department. So much so, that you feel like doing even that pretty face an injury after about ten minutes, just to make her more interesting.

The less said about the rest of the gang, the better.

The biggest tragedy was that Nana Patekar was not given more screen time. Please take up more movies, Nana. You had just two releases this year (the Dimple Kapadia coffee shop one being the earlier release) but you were memorable in both.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Most. Awesome. Trip. Ever.

I would not normally have a favourable attitude towards anything that browned my skin to the point of making it a light black, or which involved a horrendous bus journey on the towards side of the trip. But ohmygod, I have just returned from an incredible road trip.

I went to Malvan, Tarkarli, Kudal, Shiroda and Vengurla. Within these five, I went to about more than 40 places.

I actually saw more beaches than I had prepared myself for. More pretty birds than I thought it was possible for god to create. More evidence of how an unsuspecting people, lured by the promise of good money, are about to ruin the Konkan coastline.

More reason to go again.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Every new move, whether for the good of society or for the good of politicians, starts with a deception.

The BMC's rather good idea with regards to the ban on plastic bags in Mumbai, along the lines of Pune, is meeting with a whole lot of sly manoeuvring from shopkeepers. As per the new rule, shopkeepers cannot put their wares in those amazingly thin plastic bags when they sell stuff to people. The bags in question are those that drape themselves around you at the slightest breath of wind, or sink to the bottom of gutters and drains and are so thin that you can't even see them when they're wet.

The BMC is sending out random patrol teams, and the bigger news is, that customers seen carrying the aforementioned bags (or indeed, anything thinner than 50 micron) will be fined on the spot! Shopkeepers can also get off by saying that the customer insisted on a bag, though that should ideally not fool anybody.

Hence, shopkeepers have carefully hidden their carry bags under boxes or behind the refrigerators or masquerading as containers that carry soaps, toothbrushes et al. When a customer asks for a bag, they look left and right, up and down, inside and out, and swiftly whip out a bag. Having dumped all the purchased material in it, they politely ask you to scuttle off and not be seen again.

Other places have come up with their own business take on the matter. Places like Sahakari Bhandar handing out big bags of a thickness visible even to a blind naked eye have decided to encash on the no-plastic bag rule by charging an additional Rs 2 per bag they give. Be warned that bags above 50 micron should be given free with the items you purchase, so if anyone asks you to pay extra for such a bag, tell them to fuck off.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Suicidal tendencies

The husband is one of those people who thinks 3 Idiots is really to blame for the rash of student suicides in the city. I still think it's coincidence.

May be the film did give two good ideas on how to do it. And then our depressed kids and teenagers went and adopted those two ideas because they had nothing better to do.

While the state government has (finally) decided to review its education system, I do think that if we are to review things that might change this alarming state of affairs (15 suicides in 15 days), let us also insist on a very clinical coverage of things.

Dr Harish Shetty seems to agree with me. He said in a piece written for Mumbai Mirror yesterday that the sudden rise in suicides could actually be attributed to what he terms 'copycat behaviour'. The media should not describe in detail how a particular suicide was committed.

Which makes sense. Instead of your three-column and photograph space in broadsheets or a half-page in tabloids, a brief one-liner should just about meet the case. Such as: ___ was found dead in ____ at the ____ area on ______. Bas, leave it at that. No elaborate descriptions on what the person was thinking, what had happened, how nice the child used to be when still alive, if his parents/ teachers/ siblings/ neighbours/ relatives had yelled at him prior to the death, and so on.

If this is indeed copycat behaviour, and since our kids seem to want to copy even matters of death, let us not have any suicide scenes in our movies, even if those scenes point to a larger picture. May be we could bring back those lovely 'Ek titli, anek titliyan' songs from our childhood so that our kids are exposed only to harmless influences?

Friday, January 15, 2010

In the interest of principles

I cited 'personal reasons' for turning down a good offer to do freelance work for a reputed TV production house.

It was a good deal, in fact, a tailor-made one for a person who needs some cash fast and doing what she's been doing all along: report stuff. But there was a catch, a BIG one, like there always is with every new attractive proposition: I would have to counsel people and ensure I tied them up securely in their chairs to prevent them from escaping from the TV studios before the cameras began to roll.

The brief was simple: get sensational, shocking stories and get both parties to the studio to talk about it. Easy enough to accomplish if your brains are wired that way. Since my brain is not wired to anything at all, and I also have a screw loose, this was a major roadblock for me.

The husband understood perfectly, so did the mater. The sister got a bit shirty, but you can't please everyone, right? Most of all, I understood what was really bothering me so much.

The argument is that there are several suckers who sign up, nay, kick each other on the shins and hold a gun to someone else's head to get a chance to appear on TV. That 'Sach ka Saamna' was a big hit in its inaugural edition is proof enough of this fact. Kiran Bedi's 'Aap ki kachehri' had warring couples, families and whoever else in the middle of a feud come on TV and not only publicly wash each other but let Kiran Bedi hang everyone out to dry. I've always wondered why people would do this to themselves; maybe I overrated such concepts as 'personal space' and 'right to privacy' and whatever else.

It is also true that I completely and absolutely, from the bottom of my heart, detest these programmes because when I watch somebody baring their all on TV for everyone to judge and comment on, I feel like somebody who lost her way in a strange house and landed in a bedroom where a couple was making out against the cupboard. I almost tiptoe away and change channels with a mumbled 'Oh, sorry' in passing.

Hence, I turned the chance down. I have no regrets.

I am not trying to be Gandhi. I am also not trying to be, to quote Bridget Jones (after she tells off Mark Darcy) Mrs Iron Knickers. I realise that what I feel may be completely outdated, it may be naive and self-destructive. I understand that taking decisions based on the parameters listed above may mean that I always get left behind and never land good work.

Ah well, I still have love, music, family and a patient laptop to see me through. I shall survive.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Completely irrelevant post

Irrelevant to you, that is. Not to me.

Tomorrow I hope to make some semblance of my life and put myself back into circulation for work. Am hoping to cadge a freelance assignment for a TV show and I have no details yet because they'll give them to me during the meet-up, which is tomorrow. *crosses all fingers, toes, and eyes*. Keep you posted on how that goes. Hope it's a good thing which makes sense, because I have never been afraid of working long and hard towards getting a good story.

God bless Yogi for pinging me when I needed a friend yesterday. And also for passing on relevant contact information.

I cannot believe I will be taking the local train after August last year! :-O I cannot believe a girl like me volunteered to hole herself up for so many interminably long months.

Lastly, things are a bit shaky on the home front but we persevere. Because we must. And because we love so deeply.

Catch you later. Wish me luck.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Year dope

As of this moment, the new year is turning out pretty okay.

Astrologers and numerologists in papers and the Kalnirnay predict that February will be a good month for me, while July onwards is a good time if my husband decides to get married. Fame, fortune, good relationships are indicated for both of us. I shall make some money in April this year, apparently. Excellent. That means my August cheque pending with Mumbai Mirror will arrive in April.

If I decide to sit for exams, I shall be moderately successful, says a numerologist. Sheh. If I have to do something, I shall be the best at it, or not do it at all. So no, I'm not appearing for any exams this year.

Those looking for property (such as me) will find something suitable in September this year. The money towards buying said property will come from the astrologer's father.

Towards October, I shall be locked in dispute with somebody I know well. Hmm. Let. Me. See. Maybe I'll wage a war against the husband for singing out of tune.

Overall, a healthy, productive year, they say. We shall see. Started out okay, so they're half right.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Nation of (student) Idiots

Dear under-pressure students,

This comes by way of a heartfelt request to you stop being so thoroughly ungrateful for your lives and those of your parents and dear friends. This is also a humble request that you stop borrowing ideas on how to kill yourself from popular films, because that is just idiotic.

Four students have killed themselves in and around Mumbai in the last two days. Of these, two suicides were said to be 'inspired' by the film 3 Idiots, especially since the parents of both the deceased told the cops that both the kids had seen the film a day or two before they decided to cop it. The Shardashram school boy's father even said that his son had watched the film twice in a day and had to be restrained from continued viewing by his father, who thought the child wouldn't be able to make it through school the next day if he kept himself up all night. Sadly, the boy didn't make it through school the next day because he chose to hang himself in the school's toilet.

Yes, the education system needs a drastic revamp. Yes, your parents and teachers seem to value the #1 spot in academics than they do sports, music, literature or other creative pursuits. Yes, you feel stifled and your life is constantly on the boil. But how are these connected with the urge to commit suicide?

Suicide is largely a product of fear and a great sense of hopelessness. It is not, and hence I do not buy the theory that the film 3 Idiots is to blame, an action resulting out of an urge to copy. Sure, there have been deaths resulting from children imitating reel life stunts, but those are accidents, not suicides. To lampoon a film or a book or indeed any external influence for a rising tendency to commit suicides is immature and a cop out.

I want to ask your parents: how well did you do when you were in school? Were you the school's top ranked student? Did you make the merit list in your graduation year? And apart from academic pursuits, were you any good at anything else? Did you enroll in a zillion language classes, drawing classes, tuitions, swimming classes, boxing classes, fencing classes, tennis classes, and whatever else you push your kids into doing because you don't want them to trail behind every other kid? Are you still alive? Do you have a job? Do you make some money?

Ah, but we want our kids to go one up, you say? Sure, who wouldn't? But where are your kids going to draw that kind of intelligence, that kind of strength from? Are you able to absorb the disappointment of them not doing as brilliantly at school or college as you think they should? Then what gives you the right to expect them to learn how to shoulder your disappointment, your regret, and act like Aal izz well when you keep sniffing at them over your morning paper and mock them/ compare them to 'meritorious' ones in their classrooms? Be a good role model or keep your trap firmly shut.

Back to you, students, why else do you think 3 Idiots had a character like Chatur in it? Was Chatur an inspiring type or was he a repellant type? Why did everyone laugh when Chatur flubbed the welcome address in front of everyone? Would there be as much laughter if Rancho or Farhan or Raju did the same?

Now ask yourself this: why did you make Chatur the object of your derision? Did he strike you as someone you would love to be like? If all of you wanted to be like Rancho, why the heck do you even think about the suicide scenes for a minute more than necessary? Do you obediently eat your vegetables when your mother tells you to? Do you religiously do your homework when your teacher assigns it? Do you decide to be a good boy and not take a cell phone to school when everyone else is?

If you've answered 'no' to even one of the above, I'd want to ask just one question more: you choose to receive selective messages, and more often than not, know exactly what is useful to you and what isn't. So why delude yourself and your parents into thinking that your brains are so tiny, you need to be inspired by Shaktimaan and Roadies and 3 Idiots? Are we to conclude that you would leave your common sense behind and blindly do what unknown screen idols do, but not what known people such as parents and neighbours say?

If your parents are pushing you to get 95% after you got two per cent less, tell them to eff off. Study as much as is necessary to get whatever grades you aspire for, but don't be part of a race. Learn, don't become literate. Understand, don't just absorb like a sponge. And live, don't throw it all away for something as unworthy as marks and admissions.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Aal izz well

Watching '3 Idiots' was a good idea. Not only did I get some much-needed laughs, the film's message came at the right time.

For perhaps the first time since I quit architecture to take up journalism, I understood what a wise person I REALLY is :)

No, that wasn't the first time I realised it, but it's nice to be reminded. Also, the husband completed his engineering only to start work as a journalist. I did pretty okay when I was still working, he is fabulous. And the shift wasn't easy - not to contemplate, not to execute. Imagine, I went to journalism class with a roomful of people FIVE years younger (!) than me, and it was terrible at first. The husband initially floundered because he didn't know how to write, how to structure his copies, what brevity means, what style is...and look at the boy today.

So like Ranchhoddas Shyamaldas Chanchad says, the heart is actually a coward that needs to be fooled into thinking that life is good, even when it's not. Doing so doesn't mean the problem goes away, but it reduces the fear associated with it. That's something to take away from the film, never mind the other exaggerations and OTT situations.

Aal izz well with me thus far. You?