Sunday, December 20, 2015

Mastani's Leela !

I entered the multiplex after a long time. My last was Lunchbox. Thanks to the kind persuasion by a lovely cousin.
No matter how much Bhansali and Deepika tried, but Mastani couldn’t earn my sympathy. It’s not the insecure wife (Kashi) in me is saying this, but the modern day lovers (Ila/Mr Fernandes of Lunchbox) .
Mastani for me is selfish, infatuated teenager/young girl who only added troubles to the protagonist’s life, disturbed a happy family and ultimately became the reason of his death. Poor guy didn’t even know that she is also transported with the other gifts to him.
I belong to the old school of Hindi movies. I’m sure the team of Bimal Roy, Nutun and Ashok Kumar would have convinced me even without the gigantic sets n computerized effects. Oh! why did I think of ‘Bandini’ now? Not a fair comparison. For me if I have to define love that would be Kalyani's in Bandini’.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

FPS boy Revisited

Blogging was in its infancy when I started my blog in 2004. A busy working mom of two school going kids, I had my moments of frustration and monotony. I use to get tremendous solace in the arms of my blog. Likeminded bloggers automatically formed their groups and and lots of good vibes flowed through comments. E-books were exchanged, queries were answered, some fellow bloggers got married, some became parents. Joy as well as pain buried in the hearts were shared. Virtual joys reflected in real life too. Instead of responding to crafty co-workers' tactics, I preferred to think about the lovely response by a celebrity blogger on my post. Oblivion of a few negative elements around me, I waited for the lovely posts by my fellow bloggers. 

I also visited a certain Indian investment banker's blog who was based in Hong kong. He posted the pics of his adorable twins and mentioned his book. Bloggers knew about his book before the real world. I think he was the first person to get benefitted  by this medium. He commanded the same respect  as any IIT plus IITM grad does in India. I never commented in his blog and he might have never visited mine, but as  he was from blogging fraternity and I had an IIT connection so, I bought the book  and liked it. I was happy for him when FPS did well. It had all the saleable ingredients in it.The book was more of a business acumen rather than a creative wonder. Everyone liked him. Neither was he a threat to anyone nor he was mortifying anybody's pride. But, the gigantic success of his book, rather books changed everything. 

 After more than four  bestsellers and two movies based on them, Bhagat became the hero of masses. A lot of developments have happened since then. Now he writes columns for a couple of publications. Bhagat and his books are always mocked by elites. Macaulay's  Downwards Filtration Theory didn't work here which says any trend comes down to general people from higher class people. Jealousy seems natural as what he earned in less than a decade others cannot hope to do in a long time.

In all these years I have read more about Bhagat than written by him. I review caught my eye because it was written by Pritish Nandi in a magazine. The review was a good piece of writing. Not that that I claim to be a critic myself, but it had a good flow. I began reading it and stopped only in the end. It had economics of the book, which he could only admire. It had humour, sarcasm and humiliating stuff too in abundance .Years of experience and toil results in such prose, which we readers love. Nandi had wasted it for such a petty cause, sigh! Recently I was pained to see a post by one of my fav writers telling us how Bhagat is a moron and what all he doesn't know and what all he could do with his qualifications. I reached his page to read one more beautiful travelogue or column and not all this.

Bhagat has written books which gave immense pleasure to a large number of people. He made them read who never read an English novel before. So give him his due. The latest is that Bhagat is trending on Twitter and FB for a wrong reason. Why give him so much importance. Many, many others celebrities post foolish things. They are forgiven after getting chided for a day or two. But this time his crime is grave. He tried to become the biggest bhagat of our PM who has divided our country into two parts in terms of lovers and haters.   

Friday, October 02, 2015

Subah-E-Banaras, Assi Ghat

Imagine a person who is a typical drunkard, obnoxious, difficult to live with and sometimes even his parents announce in the newspapers that they disown him. After a few years you meet him, he is most cultured, charming and elegant. This is what happened to me when I entered Assi Ghat, Banaras. I had left the same ghat four years ago, as soon as I entered it.
Visiting the spotlessly clean ghat in the evening was a bliss. I felt so ashamed that I had abandoned it, thinking there was no hope. A hesitant street food eater I pounced when my host offered me the lemon tea being sold there. Healthy and tasty. A new recipe, go explore! ! Wait, there is an Italian restaurant called Pizzario and a book shop also.

I sat on the mat spread on the floor and watched the majestic Ganga Aarti. Vedic shlokas were being played .
Morning, half an hour before the sunrise, the ghat was pleasantly crowded. Now The Ganga Aarti was accompanied by the vedic shlokas recited by the students of ‘Panini Mahila Mahavidhyala’. A yagnya was being performed simultaneously by a family and everyone was asked to participate if they wanted. I did, and loved it. After the Aarti we were asked to offer jal to the Sun god, if interested. The copper pots were provided to offer Jal at the river Ganga. Shlokas were being recited at this point also by the trained classical singers.
Classical Music Programme: Many celebrities have also performed here before. Today a young lady sang Kabir’s bhajan based on morning raga .While she mesmerised the crowd, appeared the sun on the horizon and its rays hit the Ganges spreading red hue all around.
Yog: A yog teacher instructed the gathering while doing yoga and before I knew it was already 8.30 am 
All my friends who see only dirt at the Prime Minister’s constituency, please visit Assi Ghat, Subah-E Banaras , if you happen to be there. And before saying, ‘What a dirty city’, remember the city is carrying the burden of millions of pilgrims smilingly.
Banaras pics:

Thursday, October 01, 2015

The Manikarnika Ghat, Kashi

This photo of Manikarnika Ghat is courtesy of TripAdvisor

It's ok", my host Alok told me when after the darshan at Vishwanath and Kal Bhairav Temples I asked him if we could visit the Manikarnika Ghat. It was his first time too, so had to ask directions. Early in the morning, mentioning a cremation ghat to a localite who is enjoying his tea at a tea vendor's, sounded inappropriate but there was no other way. Manikarnika, the oldest one in Banaras. Well stacked logs of wood and rising smoke reminded me of all the dear ones who have left us forever. 

The self appointed guide/boatman reminded me of Paulo Coelho's  Eleven Minutes.(The world revolved around something that only took eleven minutes) After telling the story of  Parvati's lost Kangan (bangle) in a kund right there, he continued that it takes around two n a half  hrs to cremate a body. Sometimes a little longer. After that other rituals are performed. The total cost includes Rs 3k. Though I had doubt about the numbers he had stated, still I wondered that is the end part of a person's life-story so simple to pass? Rs Three thousand and two and a half hours? Actually it is simpler for the person who has departed. It is difficult only for those who are left behind. 
Between the smoke and fine dust in the air, I could imagine the great king Harishchandra, the epitome of honesty, as an employee at the ghat, haggling with his wife for the charges he had to collect for the pyre of their son. I had goosebumps when I read it in school in a book called "Hamaare Poorvaj", I still felt a few. Is that why these ancient cities charm us?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

School Days.

The urge to preserve the pleasant memories made in Campus School IITK,  culminated in the form of this Coffee table book. For a school teacher the most memorable moments do not always happen in the classroom but while passing through the corridors, checking the answer-sheets, practicing for the annual events, backstage and in the playground.

I start my day with a lot of positive vibes that make my mornings truly 'good'. Throughout the year my memory bank keeps getting enriched. The most repeated cliche of the school life is, 'I want to be a doctor', but the child who stole my heart, wrote in a creative writing assignment that she wanted be famous and win many awards. We all want to be successful, but how many of us have the courage to say it.

Mamatha and Indira, many thanks for  your constant  encouragement, Tanvi and Saurabh for helping me in getting the photographs printed.

This book for my 'little teachers' who taught me the virtues of childhood which we adults tend to forget.

-Vandana Bahuguna

Saturday, July 25, 2015


When an acquaintance was leaving the neighbourhood (Campus) I hurriedly went to say her goodbye.The things were packed and some books were lying on the shelf. She urged me to take some books if I wanted. I picked up two Archie Comics and 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.

My children, five and eight at that time, loved them and after that we must have bought more than hundred Archie's. They bought them with all the money they got from their grandparents at the railway stations and Noble Book Shop at the Campus. It was a ritual to buy Christmas specials. Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, Reggi, Ethel and even minor character became the part of our family. I quoted Mrs Lodge while proving a point to husband.

Ayush had just learnt to read, thanks to the phonetics taught  to him by his sister. Though he didn't understand much, but with the pictures of things and situations he could enjoy the humour and learnt thousands of words easily. "Creeeak.." he would blurt whenever a door made a squeaking sound and we used to be in splits.

It was an emotional moment for me when I read the news of Archie Andrews's demise. He died protecting a friend. With a heavy heart I could only say. Archie is dead, long live dear Archie.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Koi Roko Na...

Music, apart from being therapeutic is like a hole in the tightly packed sack of nostalgia. Whichever part of the sack you prick, only memories flow out. In the times of ipod, earplugs, playlist of thousands of songs in the laptop, mobile phone folders of different geners of songs, I crave for a song sung by a fellow mortal and not by Lata, Asha, Shreya, Kishore, Rafi n Manna Dey.

My first outstation trip with my friends began with a song 'Mannu bhai motaor chali pum pum pum' while I enjoyed the spectacular view of snow capped himalaya peaks from the window seat of my bus. Garhwali gals sing well, better when they sing garhwali songs.

My next college trip was from Dehradun to Srinagar Garhwal in a pathetic GMVN bus. After Rishikesh the hilly area starts, so does the sickness.We realised that as long as we sing we would not feel the giddiness. So we sang till all the songs from Geeta Dutt to Nazia Hussain got exhausted. When all were quiet, Priscilla shouted, "Sing something!!" and pounced towards the window. Someone pulled her back from the window and popped her head out and did the needful. Rest of us were giggling while waiting for our turn to use the windows.

Months later we found ourselves at St Joseph's Allahabad for State level Games. After supper the bongo was taken out and under the moonlight started one of the most memorable mehfils of my life. We had Parul an excellent dancer and ultimate mimic, Maya, retro-specialist, Rachana, who used to keep the sur-tal  intact for rest of us. The mehfil continued till midnight. 'Jaane kahaan mera jigar gaya ji' was a hit, as usual.

Then happened my sister's wedding. Waiting for the barat we started our band -baja.The bride still remembers how Parul danced like Amitabh while others sang 'De de pyaar de, humme pyaar de'  made every one laugh because my sister's name is Meena.

Unlike film songs, ghazals are best enjoyed in solitude.Thanks to brother's collection of Gulam Ali, Mehndi Hasan n Pankaj Udhas which I could truly appreciate years later when hubby explained them to me. The enjoyment turns to contentment when we know the meanings of each word, eg Aaab-daana means water n food like we say khana pani

Thanks Sapna, for making me relive my funfilled memories by bringing this link to my fb feed.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

With Love from the Hills

Answering the doorbell on a hot afternoon can be pleasant only if it is rung by a Flipcart/Amazon boy. He delivered two books written by the boy whose birthday is being celebrated by his innumerable fans today. 

'With Love from the Hills' by Ruskin Bond looks like a picture book for three year olds. The moment I pulled the red thread attached to it, a window opened to a beautiful scenery straight from a kid's scrap book. I tried to hide it from my daughter who will be English Major soon but couldn't. Unable to supress her laughter she enquired, "What have you ordered ?" I guessed that the book was meant for very little ones. The book is written in a diary form in longhand font. It is as enjoyable as any book by him. 

I never desired to meet the writers I love to read as  he has already shared the best and worst moments of his life with me through his books. I feel closer to Bond sahib because he lives in a Garhwali household. He must be  familiar with the language  my parents and I speak. We grew up in the same city, Dehradun. As a kid he might have rubbed shoulders with my father in Paltan Bazar. 

Whenever I alight at the Dehra railway station I think of the ten year old Ruskin sitting on a tin trunk all alone. Nobody came to receive him. He was back from his boarding school. He hired a tonga and reached his grandma's house where he was not welcomed. Immediately he was diverted to his mother and stepfather's house. How badly he would have missed his dear father whom he had lost only a few months back. Can there be anything more haunting?

I wonder why Ruskin Bond is called children's author. Would a ten year old relate to his writings, humour and little details the way I do?  My children who are avid readers could never relate to his writings. They would ask, 'Would you accept jalebis from a stranger?" Like he does in one of his stories. And why he has to describe even the hedge of his house? How I love when he "describes the hedge of the house", because I have seen those hedges which are no longer seen in Dehra now. How would the kids living in multi-storeyed buildings know that a wind-storm sometimes blows the tin-roofs away and so many little things.

The books specially written for kids are gems. I gave my students, ' A long Walk for Bina' and they loved it. It talks about problems of migration, displacement and making of big dams and their ill effects on the wildlife of the surrounding area which they are studying in EVS.

Thank you Ruskin Bond for all the moments when while reading your books I'd smiled or was moved or had blurted 'Good", "Ha ha","Great", "Exactly","Right" "Sahi", and "he writes so well"! 

Happy birthday.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Trending, Follow, Comment

We are caught in the Web World. Here we know strangers, acquaintances, celebrities, international sensations, idols and  favourites as a mother-in-law knows her daughter-in- law or we know our co-workers. We are aquainted with their extensive wordrobe, menu last night, the place of their birth, schooling, 'worked at', without even being inquisitive.

This experience becomes a bliss when the person is someone we admire i e a role model or favourite author. I am not fortunate enough to know the comment or one liners from the writers I enjoy reading most. Khushwant Singh passed away without even having a Twitter account and Ruskin Bond is still tied to his typewriter. But in a way it's a bliss for sure because they are also humans. They might post something which is not as sublime and politically correct as while writing leisurely when they have ample of time to edit and re-edit. Thus Singh and Bond are safe, but others are judged everyday. The lyricist who penned  love anthems  during our youth, tweets something nasty about my fav leader and loses all my respect. What when an actor who defined perfection on screen, posts something he feels strongly about but sounds anti-feminist ? He blocks all the love and affection from his female fans.

Now we know how human those people are whom we thought were highly sophisticated and suave. They can also be rude. Read the reviews of Chetan Bhagat's novel on blogs by the renound critics to know what I mean. Each one has something humiliating stored for him, but they do long for the economics that follows the release of his books.  Giving a bad review is fine but language could be civil.

We get to read all types, from wordsmiths to novices. The veterans know how much of their 'spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings' should be revealed and the novices do not know how much to hide.

This is the best time for the people who want to write to share what they think with their  friends. Blogs are the comforting arms which give them assurance of freedom. All the grammatical and other mistakes are forgiven.There is no fear of rejection from the editors  and publishers. The good news is that many bloggers are successful writers today.

So like in real life, in the virtual world also the same rule applies, Jo achha lage usse apna lo, jo bura lage usse jaane do. (take the good and leave the bad)

Monday, February 02, 2015

Gajak, a Winter Delight

Gajak is a sweet  that we eat without feeling guilt as it is a bundle of nutrients. Jaggery a natural sweetener and sesame with its richness makes it an ideal snack to devour.

My date with a gajak factory is fixed on the Christmas Day. Following the address as I cross Jareeb Chawki  signal, I can smell the sweet smell of melting jaggery, though my car windows are tightly shut. I reach a cozy factory with a furnace, huge woks of iron, roasted sesame and melted jaggery all around.

For making gajak, jaggery is heated till the consistency is like hard kneaded dough. The most interesting part comes when the trained workers stretch this dough like elastic. A nail on the wall is used to tuck the dough and it is stretched and whipped for some time. It looks like a thick shinning rope. Now roasted sesame is mixed well with jaggery and  divided into the pieces of half Kg each.Now each piece is beaten with wooden hammers by two persons. finally an iron frame is pressed on it to divide it into square pieces.
The gajak is ready to be packed immediately to avoid the moisture so that it remains crisp.

Mrs Rani, the owner of this factory, is a part of this family business for more than 50 yrs. She invites me to see how they make sugar-toys, a popular sweet during diwali as gajak is made and consumed only in winters. Ruchi, her granddaughter gives me a packet of chocolate-gajak and leaves me enveloped with the sweetness of her gift and smile.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

2014, A Memoir

I  have seen so many 'New Years' Eves' and birthdays, but none could make me feel a day older. I'm not sentimental about them. Neither I raise a toast for the new year nor lament for the year gone by. I do have regrets but I let them torment me any time of the day when they want. No resolutions, though I do have a bucket list.

2014 gave me a pair of reading glasses. People who never needed spectacles can't deny their craving for wearing one, at least at some point of their lives. Specs do add something to one's personality. May be because specs are associated with being studious or intelligent. If you are wearing them since childhood or student life then it is normal. If you start wearing them late in life when your hair or goatee has a silver tinge  then it is directly connected to the fact that half of the journey in this planet is over.

In the month of April I visited my brother. While we sat and chatted, I picked up a newspaper and showed him that I have to keep it at a distance to read it. I asked him if I should get my eyes tested. It took me to our childhood when he used to answer all my queries. He immediately gave me one of his pairs of glasses.The moment I wore it and read, the words looked crystal clear.

I came back home with a pair of trendy reading glasses. Nothing changed much, but I observed  that I was gesticulating in a familiar way. As, while reading and suddenly talking to someone, I bend my head a little and with wide eyes stared at the person, avoiding seeing through the glasses.  The very first time when I looked this way I thought of my father. Years back, I reached his office from college as a friend needed her mark sheet to be attested. We were standing next to him. He lowered his head and looked at us with his almost bulging eyes and asked, "Where is the original?" I almost shouted reminding him that she was a close friend. Those eyes I still remember.

I feel so much like my mom when I ask others to pass my specs. I realise that a different phase of life has started. I was reading quotations posted on FB giving us gyaan that age is in the mind etc, just then I was called, I looked up and was immediately  told that I look like my mom.