Monday, February 26, 2007

eM oT yadhtriB yppaH

My first memories of a birthday was while I was with my grandparents in Kerala. While I was with them, the birth star was considered to be more important than the birth date. So on Kumbha masa(month) Tiruvaathira nakshatram(star), I used to go to Tirunakara Temple in Kottayam or Ettumannur Lord Shiva temple.

My birthstar coincides with the annual festival of Ettumannur temple, so I still have memories of the crowed temple and how tough it was to get a glimpse of the deity. These memories were during my kindergarten days.

After joining school, I used to eagerly wait for my birthday. One major reason was that we could get to wear color dress, while the entire school came in school uniforms. It also felt good when everyone would wish you throughout the day – in the school bus, in the class, in corridors. I still remember my birthday in 1988, when I got up early, and went around the neighbourhood distributing sweets; before I left for school.

The ritual of wearing color dresses stopped when you go to higher classes, I still remember how awkward I felt when I appeared in color dress in my 8th standard. That day I decided that I would never again wear a color dress to school.

Another special birthday was when I turned 13. It was the thrill of becoming a teenager than anything else which made the birthday special. Similarly I was so heartbroken when I was 19 years old, I tried making the day special for myself since I knew that it would be my last teen birthday.

The birthdays in colleges were memorable again for the huge crowd which turned out of my hostel rooms to wish me for the birthday (I guess they were there for kicking me rather than wishing me, but still I would like to believe that they were there to wish me), cutting of cakes, cakes being smeared on your face and body and taking bath at midnight.

Today, as I add another year to my age, I tried to remember all the previous birthdays, thus writing this post.

PS: Read the title of the blog from right to left if it does not make sense!!!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Movie Review - Eklayva : The Royal Guard

Director: Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Vidya Balan, Boman Irani, Jackie Shroff, Sanjay Dutt, Jimmy Shergill, Raima Sen and Sharmila Tagore

The movie marks the return of Vidhu Vinod Chopra as a director after a hiatus of 7 years – his last movie being Mission Kashmir in the year 2000. Known for his excellent story telling as well as the portrayal of characters, Chopra does not fail in giving us another thrilling story.

The story starts with the Rani Suhasinidevi (Sharmila Tagore) lying in her bed and calling unconsciously for “Eklavya”. Her husband Rana Jaywardhan (Boman Irani) is alongside her and so her is insane daughter Rajkumari Nandini (Raima Sen). The character played by Amitabh Bachchan is seen writing a letter to his son, telling him that he is getting old and it was his sons duty to return to his fathers side to help him during his old age, which has resulted in considerable loss of sight.

As the Rani keeps calling for “Eklavya”, Rana gets enraged and strangles her. Nandini is a witness to this murder, but due to the fact that she is insane, she is unable to comprehend that her father has murdered her mother. Soon after the murder of the queen, we learn that Eklavya is the name of the character being portrayed by Amitabh Bachchan.

We also learn that Eklavya and his ancestors have been the royal bodyguards of the Ranas of Devigarh. His duty is to keep the present Rana, his family and the castle safe. It’s also believed that if Eklavya fails in performing his duties, his next seven generations would rot in hell.

The Rana instructs Eklavya to call for his son, Rana Harshwardhan, who could not bear the unfair treatment of the farmers at the hands of the royal family and lives in London. After Harshwardhan arrives Rajeshwari (Vidya Balan) a.k.a “Rajjo”, the daughter of the driver and a close friend of Nandini who also happens to be Harshwardhan’s childhood sweetheart and was also taking care of the queen during her last days, hands over a letter to him written by the queen.

Through this letter, we get to know the deep secrets of the house – Eklavya is the father of Harshwardhan and Nandini. Jaywardhan was unable to bear kids and hence the then queen of the royal house had allowed Suhasinidevi to bear Eklayva’s kids to provide for heir of the royal dynasty. Jaywardhan is kept in the dark while the three people who knew the secret; swear to take the secret to their grave. The letter Eklavya was writing in the beginning of the movie was the part of his diary, which he had never shown Harsh.

Suhasinidevi breaks the vow, so that her son could take care of his father. Unknown to her, her husband, Jaywardhan also had come to know of the secret and this is the reason he murders his wife when she utters Eklavya incoherently in her semi-conscious state. His rage is driven to madness and he plans to kill Eklavya, by enlisting the help of his brother Rana Jyotiwardhan (Jackie Shroff) and nephew Rana Udaywardhan (Jimmy Shergill).

Would Jaywardhan and Jyotiwardhan succeed in their plans of killing Eklavya? Would Harsh be able to save his father from them and nail the murderer of his mother? The answers form the plot of the story, expertly captured on camera by Vidhu Vinod Chopra.

Though I did not like the story a lot, since it was very predictable and since it bore similarities to mythologies; I loved the actors, who gave life to their characters. The camera work was amazing as it captured all the glory of the castle and the villages. The song “Chanda Re” is very catchy.

A very decent movie overall, and personally I would give it a 3 out of 5.

Sources: Wikipedia, Official site of Eklayva – The Royal Guard.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Garden City to Steel City

I have always loved traveling. I love visiting new places, to see beautiful places and to see how different the people are from my native. The mode of travel has never been an issue to me, I love traveling even if it’s by foot, by road, by rail, by air or by sea. Last weekend I got another opportunity to travel a few thousand kilometers in 2 and half days, which meant that there would be a number of travel modes, less sleep and loads of traveling.

I had to travel from Bangalore, the garden city to Bhilai, the steel city; to attend the wedding reception of one of my friend from TAPMI. Due to constraints in budget as well as the constraints in the number of leaves which I could take, the planning took a good one week.

We left for Chennai on the night of 8-Feb. There were no flights from Bangalore to Raipur, which was the closest airport to Bhilai, hence we had to go via Chennai. We took the Chennai mail and surprisingly reached Chennai on time; at 4:30am. Since I had stayed in Chennai, I knew that the cheapest and the fastest way of reaching the airport was by using the suburban train. We reached Chennai Park station, which is right opposite to the Chennai Central.

I knew that the nearest suburban station to the airport goes by the name “Trishulam”, but I did not know how far the airport was from that station and how I could get from the station to the airport at 5:30am. Since I was not prepared to take an auto or a cab from Central to Airport, I decided to risk taking the train. Finally, it turned out to be the cheapest and the most convenient way to reach the airport. The cost of the ticket was Rs.6 and the airport was right opposite the railway station, we just had to come out of the station and cross the road.

Our flight from Chennai to Raipur was by Indian (erstwhile Indian Airlines), and the scheduled departure was 10am, and we reached the airport at 6am. We used the remaining time to freshen ourselves and to have tea and something to eat. By the time we were done it was 7:30am, and that’s when the announcement was made that our flight would be delayed due to foggy conditions in Vizag. Our flight was supposed to make a stop over at Vizag.

So we sat in the airport, watching the same news channel on TV, hearing the same new over and over every half an hour until our flight finally took off at 12 noon. I was a bit surprised when they did not serve breakfast, they served snacks. Luckily, we had something to eat in the airport; hence we did not have to go hungry. We landed at Raipur airport at 3pm, and took a cab to Bhilai.

Our accommodation was arranged in a hotel right opposite the Durg railway station. Bhilai and Durg are twin cities similar to Hyderabad and Secundrabad. Durg is the city and Bhilai is the planned steel plant and residential complex for the people employed in the factory.

The reception started off in the evening at 7, and went on till 12 midnight. We had a nice time there with our friends. At times, we made so much noise that we were afraid that the grooms parents might come and ask us to shut up!!!

We were to start our return journey immediately, as our train to Nagpur was at 3:30am. We slept for an hour and reached the station at 3am. As luck would have it, our train had an engine trouble and it was delayed by an hour and 40 mins. We were afraid that we might miss our connecting train, which would depart from Nagpur at 10:20am. The person manning the enquiries post asked us to meet the station master as he could make alternate arrangements for us in another train.

When we met the station master, he told us (rudely) that such arrangements can be made only if the train is running late by more than 3 hours. He also told us that our train would come at 5, and we would be able to catch our connecting train easily. So we sat in the mosquito and dog infested platform for 1 hour 45 mins.

The train arrived at 5, and we got into the train and slept off. I was woken up in an hour by my co-passengers who were chatting very loudly, and spent the rest of the time enjoying the morning scenery. We reached Nagpur at 9am and had our breakfast from one of the good hotels in the platform.

My dad was also in Nagpur on that day, for some official work and he came to meet me in the station. The last leg of our journey – Nagpur to Bangalore – was the one I was really looking forward to, which was due to the fact that we had made our reservation in Nizamuddin-Bangalore Rajdhani Express. It was the first time I was traveling by Rajdhani, and I’ve always cherished my desire to travel in one.

Rajdhani too was in the list of late arrivals over the past two days. It was also late by 1 hour 40 mins. We spent the time waiting in the waiting room. There were two things which I noticed about Nagpur, one the place was very dirty and two the girls were beautiful. I guess my dad noticed me ogling at a few girls, since he told me after a few moments, “Vidharbha (the eastern part of Maharashtra) was known from the ancient times for the beautiful women who resided in this part of the country. If you remember, Bheeshma abducted Amba, Ambika and Ambalika, the three most beautiful women of their times for his king”. I nodded my agreement.

The train arrived at 12 noon and my first experience with Rajdhani was extremely good. The only thing you end up doing in the train is to eat and to sleep. The caterers were good and the journey was really enjoyable. We reached Bangalore the next day at 7am.

That concluded my 58 hours almost non-stop travel which took me through 5 states, covering almost 3000kms and we slept only for about 13 hours. I’m looking forward for the next trip!!!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Difference

I left my home early in the morning, as I had to finish off some urgent work before noon. I had had just a cup of hot tea, since I was planning to have breakfast in office. I was greeted by a cloud of smog; there are many who would still argue that its fog, but due to the rising pollution levels in Bangalore, I’m convinced that its smog. Smog or fog, it was chilly outside and wearing just a half sleeve shirt, I felt goose pimples rising on my hands as I started my walk from the house to the bus stand.

There were the usual morning walkers and joggers on the roads. As I started to pick up speed, to get to the bus stop in time to catch my bus, I noticed this kid running across the road crying. He was less than two years old, and was stark naked. He was running across the road to get to his father who was setting up a stove to cook his morning breakfast. His hands, legs and buttocks were dirty due to the fact that he was squatting on the road sometime back. His nose was running and his dusty hands had left marks of dust on his face.

He was the son of the labourer who builds one of the houses in out layout. I was surprised to find that the kid was not crying out of cold, but due to the fact that his mother had scolded him.

I could not stop myself from comparing him with any of the kids of his same age, but born into well to do families. I have seen parents trying to protect their kids from cold and dirt and here was this boy running around in the cold morning, naked and crying.

The next thought that came to my mind was the rosy picture of India being presented to the world. We are one of the fastest growing economies in the country, with a double digit growth in most of the sectors, so on and so forth. And here was this kid.

I asked myself, “What is this kids fault for being born into the house he was born and not into a well to do household”? Was it his fate? I’d never know.

As I walked past him, I called out to him. He looked up at me, still crying. I waved my hands at him and said “Ta Ta”. All of a sudden his sad face lit up, he stopped crying and started waving back enthusiastically. Off all the things parents do to make their kids stop crying, this kid was happy with the fact that a stranger had noticed him and had waved to him.