Meeting “Eskay”

It all started with a DM (Direct Message on Twitter) from Gitanjali Sriram that I received about a month back. Actually, there were 3 of them.

Hey! My dad published a book last yr ‘Indira Gandhi: The Final Chapter’ which chronicles her story from the Emergency to her assassination

The story is told thru the political cartoons he was doing for the Indian Express during those year. It’s a fab book.

Would you like a few signed copies to give away during one of the TSBC sessions?

(Note: #TSBC or The Sunday Book Club is a book chat on twitter. For more details please click here.)

Ahem… Would I like a few signed copies…? ;-) Once I had conferred with Raghav and Rahul, my #TSBC co-founders, I sent a DM to Gitanjali accepting her offer. She, in turn, sent me the email address of Suraj ‘Eskay’ Sriram, her father and author of the book giveaway, to work out the formalities involved. And a few emails later we were set.

I am embarrassed to admit here now that, at that time, I had not heard of the book or the author. A quick online search revealed that Indira Gandhi: The Final Chapter (Niyogi Books, 2011, pp.176) was a glimpse of the Indian political and social scene during the last few years of Indira Gandhi’s political regime through Eskay’s cartoons and illustrations. I also asked my older brothers and Amma if they had heard of Eskay. To which I received an immediate “Of course !” followed by a “Why do you ask?” When I gave them the background details, I was told by all of them that I don’t read enough ! :-(

But I digress from the main topic of this post: Meeting “Eskay”, which happened last Saturday in Pune. And what a meeting it was !

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A tryst with Mirabai and Narayan Surve @ the FD Zone

What comes to your mind when you think of Mirabai (or Meerabai, depending on your choice of spelling)?

Mirabai, Meerabai, Amar Chitra KathaThe 16th century princess-turned-poet from Rajasthan who was a devotee of Krishna? The rebellious Rajput princess who refused to worship any other god, but Krishna? The widow who was harassed by her in-laws because she refused to become a sati? The pious saint whose soulful compositions we hear now and then through the renditions of Lata Mangeshkar, Kishori Amonkar, M.S. Subbalakshmi, and others? An incident from Mirabai’s life in a school text-book? The Amar Chitra Katha comic book that narrates her entire “life story”?

I am thinking about all this as I wait for a documentary on Mirabai to begin at the RR Theatre of Films Division (FD) at Peddar Road in Mumbai. An initiative of The FD Zone, this screening is part of a curated two-film package: the first is the film on Mirabai titled A Few Things I Know About Her and the second film is Narayan Gangaram Surve.

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Of bloggers met, almost met and not met …

There I was minding my business in the blogging world. Writing posts regularly, replying to comments received on my posts, visiting other blogs, commenting on the ones I liked, promoting my posts on twitter, FB and whatnot. Mulling over site stats, etc. All waz well in my little blogging world.

Then one day, this self-made equilibrium in my blogging world shifted. I left a comment on a discussion thread in a blog forum. And got a response from a blogger I had been secretly admiring from afar. I responded. To which I got another response. And so on and so forth. Soon I de-lurked on her  blog and, I guess, she on mine. We started exchanging the occasional mail. One day, this blogger wrote to me saying that it would be nice to meet up and asked me if there was a chance of my visiting her part of the world. And as coincidence would have it I was due to visit her part of the world in October 2011. I said yes, and we fixed a mutually convenient date to meet up.

But then apprehension set in. Did I really want to meet a fellow blogger offline? Weren’t bloggers supposed to interact only online? And so on and so forth. I had second thoughts, third thoughts, and then some more thoughts as well. But then, curiosity to meet this particular blogger prevailed and if you had been around Dilli Haat in New Delhi on 13 October 2011 around 11.30 am, you might have seen me waiting for this blogger.

I was excited and nervous at the same time, and wondering how on earth I would recognise her as I had no clue as to what she looked like. Even though I was familiar with her rather distinctive Gravatar of a belan-wielding woman, I doubted if she would actually come to meet me with one. :-D Yes, I was meeting Zephyr, a.k.a. The Cyber Nag.

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The nosy co-passenger

It was going to be a long journey to Mumbai, I told myself, as I surveyed my co-passengers in the train compartment. A family of four, comprising an elderly woman, a young man, a young woman, and a toddler (along with 4 large suitcases and 5 bags), were struggling to adjust their luggage under the seats and themselves on the seats. The elderly woman was the boss. No argument there. She decided how and where the luggage was to be placed, the seating and sleeping arrangements for her family, etc. She bullied the man (her son), was quite nasty to the woman (her daughter-in-law), and kept calling the child (her granddaughter) an idiot. She picked a fight with the coolie and shouted him down with the choicest abuse and sheer volume. She had a “Lalita Pawar” (for information on who she was, click here) kind of look about her with a screechy voice to match, and it didn’t take me long to name her that.

Yes, it was going to be a long journey to Mumbai in a Sleeper Class coach of the Mumbai-bound Madras Express. It was the year 1997 and a beautiful November morning in Chennai and a perfect day for travel. But somehow with the arrival of my Lalita Pawar,  the day just didn’t seem so beautiful any more.

Once settled, Lalita Pawar turned her attention to her co-passengers. And that was my cue to hastily bury my nose in a book. It was a look that I had seen many-a-times during my travels. It was a look that promised to dig out personal information from a co- passenger, particularly a young woman travelling alone. In fact, I could almost see Lalita Pawar rubbing her hands with gleeful anticipation when she saw me. Though I could feel her eyes boring into me, I did not look up from my book.

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Balasaraswati: Her art and life

The background

I did not know what I was getting into when I decided to review Balasaraswati: Her Art & Life by Douglas M. Knight Jr. (Tranquebar Press, 2011). All I was aware of at that time was the fact that I would be reading about a person I “knew”. Let me elaborate here.

Amma (my mother) grew up on a diet of classical music and dance. A student of Carnatic classical music, she was fortunate to watch many musicians and dancers perform, one of whom was Balasaraswati herself. Amma worshipped and idolised her as only a true rasika can. I started attending kacheris (music performances) and dance performances with Amma when I was 5. After each performance there would be a discussion on what we liked or did not like, and we would try sing the pieces we liked. If it was a dance performance that we had attended, the discussion would begin with the dance, then move on to the music, and finally to the inevitable mention of how Balasaraswati would have performed a particular dance item. By the time I was 6 or 7, I knew who Balasaraswati was, what her dance was like, and how she danced—all this without ever having seen her dance. But thanks to Amma’s vivid descriptions, and whenever Amma herself sang, I could and would imagine Balasaraswati dancing to them ! Such was her impact on me.

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Remembering Satyendra Dubey

Today is 27/11. A day that is almost over at the time of publishing this post. For many, it may have been a day like any other. For some, it may have been a day marking a personal or professional milestone. But 27/11 is no ordinary day. It is a day that no Indian should forget for it was on this day, 8 years ago, that the issue of entrenched corruption in India was brought to the forefront like never before. It was the day that Satyendra Dubey was killed for exposing corruption.

Satyendra Dubey was a bright young engineer and project manager of the Golden Quadrilateral, one of India’s most ambitious road-building projects undertaken by the National Highway Authorities of India (NHAI). In a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office in May 2003, he exposed  the corruption and irregularities in the road building contracts issued by the NHAI for this project. In the same letter, he also requested for his identity to be kept a secret. The contents of the letter and his identity were ‘leaked’ by the Prime Minister’s Office and on 27 November 2003, he was shot dead in Gaya, Bihar. His murder sparked off an unprecedented public outrage in a country that is quite thick-skinned and immune to such callousness. It would not be incorrect to say that Satyendra Dubey’s was probably the first martyr against corruption in recent times

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