Friday, October 26, 2012

Repeat after Dr Kalaam

I'll fly and fly.
I'm born with potentials.
I'm born with goodness and truth.
I'm born with Ideas and dreams.
I'm born with greatness.
I'm born with confidence.
I'm born with courage.
I'll defeat the problems and succeed.
I have wings.
I have wings.
So I am not meant for crawling.
I will fly.
I will fly.
I will fly.

Dr APJ Abdul Kalaam.
Oct 25 2012.
IITK Kanpur

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tamarind City (Chennai)

TamarindCity: ( audio) Where the modern India began.

Tamarind city is the second book by Bishwanath Ghosh, a fellow Kanpurite settled in Chennai.

I moved to Chennai in 1996. I had only begun to marvel at the things it had to offer when I had to leave it, for my husband got an offer from IIT Kanpur and it being near to my hometown scored over Madras. This left a desire to explore Chennai and know more about its culture. Maybe this is why TC was a fabulous treat for me; leaving my desire well satiated. It gave me a second chance to walk down the streets I had  seen  and the ones I hadn't.

The Book starts with a metaphor which calls Chennai a charming old lady who met Robert Clive when she was 18 and calls him, “a very moody fellow." I wish my history teacher would have taught me in this way.

Exploring the city in the company of the author had its advantages as I could know about the city from the people living in it. Common people to celebrities all are his guests in the book. They include a primary school teacher, a palm reader at Marina, owner of Ratna Cafe, station master at Royapuram, Saroja Devi, Jemini Ganeshan's daughter Dr Kamla Selveraj, sexologist Dr Narayana Reddy, S.Muthiah, and many more including the man behind those illustrations in Chandamama, a magazine for children. Then we meet a yoga teacher who charges a measly sum for teaching this dynamic and challenging form of yoga saying she is not doing it for money.

 Some of the observations are so apt and well expressed that they surely would be quoted in future to define Chennai. One of them is, "Tradition is a day-wear in Chennai.While in other big cities it stays mothballed in trunks and taken out only during festivals or weddings, here tradition is worn round the year."

I am no historian so I believed what I read in the book that Chennai is known as conservative and orthodox yet almost every modern Indian institution — from army to judiciary, medicine to engineering — traces its roots to Madras’s Fort St. George, which was built when Delhi had just become Mughal India’s capital and Kolkata and Mumbai weren’t even born. But for those who beg to differ, Ghosh clarifies in one of his Facebook updates, "A couple of reviewers seem to have problems with my calling Madras India's oldest modern city. But that's an indisputable, historical fact."

I think, people from Chennai as well as outsiders would enjoy this book. At the book launch function in Delhi a young software engineer said: “Previously, when North Indians talked about Chennai they used to say: ‘Are you mad? Why would I move to Chennai?' But now I am thinking of moving there.”

(From EYES, our campus magazine)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Kishore Comedy Kumar

Kishore kumar sang 'kabhi Alvida na kehna' (never say goodbye) and how we obeyed him by never forgetting him for a moment. Someone somewhere is always celebrating life with his songs.

There was a flood of columns, blogs, articles and tweets on his 25th death anniversary. A few were as melodious as his songs and others harped about his eccentric nature. Funny or humorous would have been more appropriate.

I eagerly clicked this link which I got at twitter, an interview of KK by Pritish Nandi. I thought he would be more comfortable with a fellow bengali. I enjoyed the interview and realised that KK used to get irritated very easily but didn't lose his temper and then he would create some silly answers which he would give with seriousness. I wonder why these journalists couldn't see fun, humour and sarcasm in that, for example:

KK: Then, there was this interior decorator-a suited, booted fellow who came to see me in a three-piece woollen, Saville Row suit in the thick of summer- and began to lecture me about aesthetics, design, visual sense and all that. After listening to him for about half an hour and trying to figure out what he was saying through his peculiar American accent, I told him that I wanted something very simple for my living room. Just water-several feet deep- and little boats floating around, instead of large sofas. I told him that the centrepiece should be anchored down so that the tea service could be placed on it and all of us could row up to it in our boats and take sips from our cups. But the boats should be properly balanced, I said, otherwise we might whizz past each other and conversation would be difficult. He looked a bit alarmed but that alarm gave way to sheer horror when I began to describe the wall decor. I told him that I wanted live crows hanging from the walls instead of paintings-since I liked nature so much. And, instead of fans, we could have monkeys farting from the ceiling. That's when he slowly backed out from the room with a strange look in his eyes. The last I saw of him was him running out of the front gate, at a pace that would have put an electric train to shame. What's crazy about having a living room like that, you tell me? If he can wear a woollen, three-piece suit in the height of summer, why can't I hang live crows on my walls?

I don't think he would have said all this seriously. I also play pranks, answer sarcastically and exaggerate things to prove my point and then  laugh with friends till our ribs ache. I think it's normal as long as it doesn't hurt anyone. It's sad that he didn't have a friend with whom he could laugh.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Leather City

Life in a Non Metro-2
Oh Kanpur!

Just like Mumbai is 'Maximum City' and Calcutta is 'City of Joy' I too felt like giving a sobriquet  to my city which I had visited as a child with my parents when my mother had come here to appear for an exam. I also remember watching Bobby in one of the theatres in this city. I grew up wearing Chappals made in Kanpur which my father bought whenever he came here on official visits.

After twenty five years I again landed here to stay. As a kid also I might have thought of the  name "Leather City" because of the leather footwear connection. But now for me leather symbolizes something warm, strong and flexible.

Kanpur, has a glorious past, but  now has all the negative adjectives given to it by anyone visiting it. The worst is the tag of 'the 10th most polluted city in the world.'. This article on Kanpur titled Denizen of Darkness also depresses me a lot, but they have genuine reasons and data to prove. People who come here to work also keep comparing it with their home towns/other metro cities and condemn it. I could never say anything against it because, like many others,  who condemn it, I too chose to live here.

I live on a  beautiful campus which has nothing in common with the city it belongs to. Last Saturday when I was feeling frustrated to see the pics of  some of my friends on FB, living near and far, having fun and here I was getting bored to death, I got a call from a friend to join a small get together she had arranged at her place. I don't drive so promised her to be at her place if I get a driver. Luckily I got one. I shampooed my hair changed my look and mood and  was on my way to be with my friends for the evening.

We crossed two crowded Railway crossings (no flyovers) and a stretch of bumpy road. After a turn ( at Gurudev Palace) the road was smooth and had less traffic.. We were driving along the Allen Forest (Kanpur zoo) I had just started to enjoy the ride when the car hit a big block/brick of concrete and cement,which was a part of the damaged road-divider. After a jolt the car stopped slowly. One of the tyres was punctured. Alok, my savior changed the tyre in no time. As we were about to resume, I stopped him and asked him to go and remove that block from the road. He got down,walked for a while and came back. I could see from the car window that someone else had already removed it from there.This is the Kanpur I love, after all it's the people that make the city. It made me happy and I thought of the  comment I read  on the article  Denizen of Darkness:

"The writer  sees us "Kanpurias" as "denizens of darkness", I wonder why he did not see a vibrant city of 4 million plus and their indomitable spirit to succeed despite years of political and bureaucratic neglect. True the large textile mills have shut down, perhaps for good, but other sectors like leather, plastics, chemicals are doing well, and for your information, Kanpur ranks at number 10 in terms of GDP. We are thriving and successful, because in the words of Iqbal:-
"Kuch baat hai ki hasti mitati nahin hamari,
 Sadiyon raha hai dushman Daur-e-Zamana hamara."
- Avinash Gupta

One more comment from a blog:
 'Thank you for the information about Kanpur. My son is at IIT Kanpur for the summer from rural Northern Vermont, USA. It’s a bit of culture shock for him but after three days he is adapting nicely and finds the people amazingly hospitable.'