Wait for Bliss

Somewhere in the distance, far away

When the day reaches its zenith

And the evening arrives quietly

Like a shy hesitant bride

Lighting lamps of my memories

When memories make my breath heavy

And well my eyes up for no visible reason

The love reaches out to soothe the tension

I know it’s you who touched me

Dusky bride facing me

Some hearts remain distant forever

And some for eternity, belong together

My own mind becomes my enemy

When it offers to suffer

Even your pains inside me

When I find myself in such complexities

I light a lamp of your memories

In my heart I know

My heart’s deepest secrets

Secrets to my everlasting dreams

I exist due to those sun-gold dreams

If only a shadow of my dream escaped

My heart might feel dead to its beats

When the day ends

And sun takes the light away

Along with reason for dreamy shadows

The evening turns into a bride

Covered in a dark cloak

And arrives by my side


Feel Good Factor

These assorted snippets are from 2012.

In Mumbai there are so many roads, squares (Chowks) and gardens, that are named after film personalities. It has been on my mind for a long time to do a series of pictures on these plaques as my homage to these stalwarts or stars. Recently one fine day I was to go to down town for some work and took my camera along. I started shooting pictures with Mukesh Chowk, named after singer Mukesh at Nepean sea road.

Since 10 Jan, I am attending Swami Parthasarathi’s discourses on 13th chapter of Bhagwad Geeta. Its good fun. I am enjoying it thoroughly. Let me tell you something that Swami Parthasarathi enlightened us all, with. The first Shlok of chapter 13 is not included in many editions of Geeta. Geeta has 700 Shlokas in all, but if this Shlok is included, then the number goes to 701. He also told that chapter 13 and 15 are the most philosophical of all. They give you real insight about life, what to look for and what are the ways we should to go through it – to put it simply.

Of late I have been doing some reading in my spare time. You know, life is not a straight line. Reading is possible when there is a lull in the business. It is very difficult to work on what you like to do I mean your hobbies; when you get busy doing what you need to do; ‘work’. I read recently, ‘Sophie’s World’ by Jostein Gaarder. This book has been put together with a fresh approach. It works very effectively like a textbook of philosophy. It’s about philosophy and philosophers of the past 3000 years! Beginning of the book has a quote by Goethe, “He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth”. Second book was ‘One Night @ The Call Center’ by Chetan Bhagat. He has a ‘fresh, matter of fact, ordinary spoken language’ approach to writing and expression. I see myself writing like that. In fact while reading ‘One Night @ The Call Center’ I felt as if my ghost is in the words. Mr. Bhagat is very innovative and adventurous in his narrative. His first book was ‘5 Point Something’, about his life in IIT Kanpur, which also made enjoyable reading. I have just started reading, ‘Shantaram’ by Gregory David Roberts. This name feels as if they are 3 people, but ‘no’. This book has been recommended to me by many. Since Shantaram is a big (thick I mean) book, I decided to parallel read ‘Gödel Escher Bach-an Eternal Golden Braid’ by Douglas R. Hofstadter. Now this is a difficult (actually impossible) task I have taken up. It is like saying, I want to climb Mount Everest without any training, without Oxygen, in my shorts and T-shirt. So I know the result but basically I want to graduate in the impossible. So I got so busy reading those two (books) that I did not meet people for very long. So to reaction of friends, “long time no see”; my mad answer would be, “I wasn’t feeling like it”.

Not that lots has happened; but yes, some things did happen as they always do. It has never happened that nothing has happened. Nothing never happens.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is being held in Mumbai between 4th–12th February 2017. The fest always attracts talents of many performing arts like dance, music, singing and paintings. Many seasoned and upcoming installation artistes also get chance to show their talent… Rampert Row precinct is closed to traffic during these days, though the small street is studded with most popular landmarks like Lion Gate, Jehangir Art Gallery, West Side, Chetna and Khyber restaurants. It is very close to BSE, Museum, Colaba, Fort and entire central business area of Mumbai.

2 Click or Not 2 Click

Right from the beginning of my career in movies, I started travelling to interesting locations for shootings. And I would always feel that my friends and family should also get a taste or a glimpse of wherever I went or whatever I have done. That must have been the reason I took to photography so very passionately. May be not entirely. People do feel like clicking pictures, so they carry a camera with them. But this desire to click is stronger in me now. Any ways various mental or physical strengths naturally, keep changing in intensity.

My 1950 model Contaflex has been with me since 1974 and still going strong! It is totally a manual camera, with strong mechanical structure; so there is not much in it to wrong. I am told this is basically a German camera; but for just one year, it was manufactured in Russia and I happened to get one those models. So, it is dependable old German gadget and not one of those delicate darlings of today, with so many facilities and weak electronics. I must have clicked nearly 5000 pictures through its 50mm block lens. I have been getting it serviced too – though not too often.

Let me take this opportunity to thank 2 people here. First is Mr. Jayant Patel, who was instrumental in getting me hooked on to photography and second person is Mr. S I Sheikh, an expert in servicing old cameras. He gave up his repairing-business recently because he became too old. Because of him I could keep my camera going strong for years. At this moment I don’t even know if he is around…
I had bought this Contaflex for a sum of Rs. 800. Those days my average monthly income was about Rs.1000. But I could spend that large sum of 800, because I happen to save some cash after I signed up working with a big film company.

Well, Jayantbhai was an excellent still photographer. He must have won more than 50 medals in competitive photography. And all those medals were kept in a cotton bag (Thaila) that hung unceremoniously by the nail on the wall in their house.

Once during monsoons I was travelling to Lonavala and my first digital camera gave way. The screen suddenly got pixelated. I changed the batteries. Switched it off/on. Nothing! Sadly, I started watching lovely green hills and valleys (photographs) passing away. I felt I missed a lot of pictures during that beautiful journey. Soon I stopped struggling to fix the camera and concentrated on the view from the bus window. I did some reflection on it.

Surprisingly some benefits of ‘not being able to click pictures’, dawned on me, which did not show ‘clicking pictures’ in a very positive light –

*While shooting pictures I decide some scenes are good and some not so good – does it mean that I am being judgemental?
*I take pictures to show others, or is it to show off – is there a trace of ego?
*If the picture is being clicked while travelling then I have to move my eyes from the scene in order to pick up my camera, focus, zoom or make other adjustments in the camera. Thus my mind gets engrossed in a mechanical and relatively unartistic activity; while the scene would be passing away without me even taking a look at it. Thus I will not be able to ‘fix’ that scene in my memory. It will finally remain on the photographic print or in HDD of my computer. I realised travelling pictures make me loose a lot, mainly because I am not seeing the visual directly and so called ‘fully’. If I use all that time to look at the panorama, it will get memorised in my mind in rich 3-D with all related sounds, movements and smells, while the photograph will remain a soul-less 2-D frame. All it will document that I passed here one day.

So if I am travelling to a new location, it may not be worthwhile to look away or look through a gadget rather than look directly at the view. I remember once I was flying by a helicopter to Madurai and I noticed some amazing formations of clouds. They looked like soft fluffy toys of various amazing shapes, playing with each other. I remember them so well because my camera was not at hand.
If I stop somewhere for a leizurely cup of tea; I would have time to replay that scene in my mind. Yes, that would be only in my mind.

Makes sense? I am sure not for all.

Contaflex 861/02 Carl Zeiss Ikon Tessar 2314609/ 1:2.8/ f=50mm

Paa for my Deeds

When your wishes get fulfilled and start falling in your lap means, that you truly deserved the good luck. And in all probability you will do well with them.

I just happen to call a friend casually and she asked me if I wanted to see the movie, ‘Paa’. She added Amitabh and Abhishek will also attend. I was happily surprised and obviously said ‘yes’! Seeing Paa was high on agenda for me. Also I had not yet seen Abhishek personally.

Show was at 1.30 pm in a nearby multiplex. It was passed 12 noon. I rushed up with my bath, dressed up and most importantly had my lunch. I can’t stay hungry beyond a few minutes after my due ‘eating’ time. I gobbled up ‘roti subzi’ from my plate as slowly as I could and was at the theatre before 1pm. I was a bit early. I relaxed after rushing things for past 45mins. Deliberate relaxing is so important.

In a few minutes I noticed some tourist buses were being parked by the side of the gate of the theater. Buses normally are not allowed in. Some security guards were running between the buses and managers. I knew the students of DEEDS had arrived. The buses had to be parked inside the compound for their safety. I took charge of communicating this to the manager. Soon it was organized. Nearly 200 young boys and girl students in uniforms queued up at the entrance of the multiplex, under the instructions of their teachers. They were not using words to communicate; but gestures or squeals – they were all deaf. DEEDS is an NGO that runs regular and vocation schools to provide education to deaf young adults. They have nearly 20 centers in Mumbai and elsewhere in India.

Soon I was in my seat along with all those happy children. They were so excited. Such outings are always special since they are bit rare. It did cross my mind as to how will they get the dialogues of the film; but I gave it no further thought. Anyone can easily understand the storyline of a movie without hearing ‘sound’. Well may be I am putting the movie ‘sound recordist’, out of jobs but that’s a fact that for many years the movies were silent. Later on they did add music and some effects to Charlie Chaplin movies and I hated it. I had seen them completely silent way back in 1969…

I am told that Amitabh and Abhishek will joins us after the show. Somehow I thought if Jaya also would come with them. It would have been nice to meet her. The film started and there she was on the screen. She was reading all the names in the titles. So, it was seeing her in person, since she was not acting. Cool. I got another wish, which I only thought about.

Soon screening started. Theater fell silent.

Everything about the film was good. Producers had planned ‘not’ to dramatize Auro’s sickness ‘progeria’, to earn sympathy points. He was there as everyone else. Only a small change that I will make will be in Amitabh’s introduction’ in the movie. I would have certainly put a few students in the toilet where Auro is first seen. They don’t have to call him by his name and all. It would be more normal to fill up the ‘loo’ a bit more and add some passing. There was no need to give him a filmy ‘introduction’ – hogging the frame all by himself! Rest all was great.

There was short intermission during which organizers had a small big job to do. They taught the students currently popular ‘jig’ that Amitabh does in the film; to present it in front of him. They learnt it pretty fast in 2-3 rehearsals only. Finally on cue, children in entire theatre did those complicated arms movements. They were ready.

Second half of the film was more engrossing, which is not too common in Hindi cinema. Most films fail in this area, especially in the climax…

‘Paa’ has a beautiful end.

We had to wait for 10 minutes for the father and son duo to appear, and appear they did. After excited exchange of hand waves between delighted children and the Bachchans, things settle down. Bachchan senior joined children in the jig they were ready for. Both Bachchans spoke about the movie, mostly during a chat with press.

Amitabh: the make-up for the film was very difficult and tiring. It used to take 4-4.30 hours to put it on and 2-2.30 hours to remove it. During this entire time I could not speak, laugh, eat or drink. After that we would be shooting for 6-7 hour on every working day. Our make-up persons were from abroad. And they did a wonderful job. The head of a progeria patient becomes very large, hair is lost and the veins on the scalp become visible. Since I am playing a 13 year old, I could not do anything about my height. Second point was that eyes of progeria patients bulge out. They become very large, which also we could not do. Although there is an injection which when given in the eyes can make them large; but everyone opposed the idea, as it would have had adverse affect on my health.

Abhishek: I carry him in the film, because I am his father here, otherwise I am always sitting on his shoulders. “Mere paas maa hai”, is a line from one his father’s films, but I am happy kyonki “mere paas Paa hai”.

I watched Bollywood’s most famous ‘father and son’ in a good mood, very witty and relaxed. Amitabh especially handled a battery of young and stupid media very well, providing them with in depth answers (read gems) to silly questions (read roadside gravel).

My Locality

Our home in 7-Bungalow area in Andheri west was an oasis of peace and quiet when we just moved in, in July 1980. In fact my building was the last one in the lane. It had a dead end on the right and there was a barbed wire, running across the lane. Beyond the barbed wire there was a large puddle that turned into a regular pond during rains. It remained slushy throughout the year and later turned into breeding bed of mosquitoes. It was also very quiet as there was no through fare for traffic. No noise. No pollution of any kind. Soon the young ones started using the dead-end as a perfect area to play cricket. Although I stay on ground floor flat of this building, yet if I stood on a small table, I could see the sea from there… well now the view is blocked by many layers of buildings. So ‘Sagar Darshan’ (view of the sea) is impossible now even from my terrace. The road in front is no more a dead end. As my apartment faces the road, there is abundance of traffic noise and variety of pollution. One can see a thin layer of dust reappearing on our furniture every hour. During morning and evening rush hours it can take 1-2 min to cross this narrow lane. There were some changes that were also good, like greening if this lane. Initially it was all barren and bare; but over the years the trees grew tall; but that reduced the size of our sky and patches of sunlight…

So, as I mentioned nothing is same in front of my house compared to 1980… the only exception is a loud and clear voice calling, “dabba batliwallaaa…” (empty cans, bottles)! You can say that ‘voice’ is not a thing. It is just a voice, which cannot be called as a part of this lane. Agreed, but I do hear it in my house, morning and evening, just as I hear the traffic noise. Therefore, for me it is part of this ambiance. It is the voice of a short and thin Marathi guy, a scrap dealer, mainly old newspapers and anything that others don’t want. Perhaps he was well built under his white shirt and dhoti – since he walks such a lot all over, and carries all his stuff on his shoulders. He does not own a cart, like many others. Be it summer, winter or thrashing rains, he was very regular in his business trips. He weighed newspapers with his small weighing scale that has a mettle hook. Somehow I never sold old newspapers to people who used a that kind of weighing scale. I knew their scale would never be right. I had experienced it once. I called out to a young man to sell my old newspapers. He arranged the them in a neat heap, tied it up, pushed the hook of his scale in the string… and pulled it up with his elbow on his knee. Simultaneously his face distorted, right arm shivered and his gorging eyes gave out his failing strength. Putting it down heavily he said, “3 kilos”. I laughed, “Does lifting only 3 kilos of weight makes you shit in your pants?” He was sheepish. He didn’t know whether to admit he was weak or he was a cheat. I asked him to get lost… Years passed, I did not change my view of scale with hook and never dealt with that dabba batliwalla too.

Coming back to only constant ‘dabba batliwallaaa…’ years passed, but he was still making his rounds, though virtually doing no business. May be he was too simple and did not have will to push his business. His bag remained empty in the morning and in the evening. He looked older as he had been walking on this road for more than quarter of a century. I realized his walk is a drag now, as though he is pulling himself in an invisible cart. I realized I too had changed. I do not react that strongly towards that cheat weighing scale. I had become soft towards him.

Once we had many empty liquor bottles to dispose. My wife had called him and handed the bottles to him. As he fiddled in his pocket for coins to pay her, she told him not to bother and instead gave him Rs 5 from her side. He was shocked! It is not the way this business works. He seemed nonplussed… feeling very confused, he went away. After that whenever we have an empty bottle, I call him in Marathi, “kaka, ikde ya” (uncle come here). Very gingerly he would come to our door. We would hand him the bottle along with a 5-rupee coin. Our business model has been modified. My wife said he is so old now. I too liked the idea. Now he takes the bottles, which actually helps us in clearing the clutter and we pay him for it. He says a parting ‘Namaste’ and both parties are mutually grateful.
Later I worked on making this business relationship to next level. Whenever I passed him on the road I started wishing him, ‘Namaskar Kaka’. He would raise his hand and acknowledge with his “Namasker”. It must make him feel good. One day I stopped him, made small talk with him and asked him for his name. “Sukhdev” he said. I found his name a little surprising. I always imagined him to be ‘Sakharam’ or ‘Ganpat’ or ‘Tukaram’ or may be just ‘Patil’. Sukhdev was so unlikely for a such a typical Marathi Manoos. More over I did not have too many Sukhdevs in my memory. One of them was this huge documentary filmmaker of 1960s and another was a freedom fighter – both Punjabis. Never mind I thought. He says his name is Sukhdev. So be it. After that I started addressing him with his name rather than just ‘Kaka’. That must have made him even feel better, because when someone living in an apartment addresses a ‘dabba batliwalla’, by his name and makes a small talk, must be ego booster for him. That was my intention…

It has been 4 months that I have not heard him calling out. There were quite a few bottles lying under the kitchen sink. After waiting for quite a few days, I decided to find out about him from the nearby cobbler, Parmeshwar. I stepped out immediately and met Parmeshwar. I asked him for Sukhdev’s where about, saying he has not been seen for some time now. He at first could not place the person, but then he said ‘oh him? He met with an accident.’ I did not like it. ‘When?’ I asked him. ‘May be about 4-5 months back.’ He added, ‘he was in hospital for sometime after that I don’t know.’
‘Oh… I see!’ I felt very bad. Noticing my genuine concern he offered, ‘I know where he stays. I will go and find out how is he feeling and let you know.’ ‘Fine’ I said and feeling a bit uneasy, returned home. Two day later Parmeshwar was calling out to me from my balcony. I knew he has some news for me. Sukhdev has become very weak, he said. He cannot get up. He is perhaps too old to recover completely. I felt like going to meet him right then, but in that hot afternoon it was not so easy to get up and get out. My ‘wish’ lost to my will power. In a few days bunch of empty bottles got disposed off to someone else. The ambience surely seems to have changed on my road.

Back to a distance past… I was in my balcony. Sukhdev was passing and ‘calling out’ in his powerful patent style, ‘dabba batliwallaaa’. In a light mood, I thought, I have never seen this Dabbawalla sitting somewhere relaxing or eating anything, ever. He just walks and walks and walks. That means he would be burning many more calories than he is consuming. That would also mean that one fine day he may just vanish in thin air and someone will find his clothes on the street, without any trace of him in it – scientifically speaking!

Liar Liar

I was on my way to the airport to meet someone. I was in an auto. I always travel by autos. They are cheaper, more easily available and open to uninterrupted flow of breeze. The auto stopped under a coming up fly-over near Andheri station. Frankly, quarter of Mumbai is perpetually under construction. As I was checking a message on my phone, I felt somebody in a car was looking at me. You can get this feeling, when such things happen. I turned towards that car and found a young boy clicking my picture on his cell phone. Perhaps he did not know the rules of social decency. I objected and told him that you cannot click anyone’s picture without his permission. But to my surprise he turned out to be a cheeky bum. Idiot said ‘sir just one more, ok?’ He clicked another one and rolled his glass up, as he and his friends did high5 and laughed aloud. I was aghast! Traffic had started moving. The car got space to speed up. I was in top irritated gear. I told the auto driver to follow that car. Old man got tense and asked if the car turns right from the road? We have to go straight. Never mind I told him; just follow him. I want to teach that bum a lesson; spoiled bloody brat! Auto squeezed through the narrow gaps and got closer to the car. The brats noticed and panicked. There was no scope for them to take off under a under construction fly over. They were also not so close for me to get down and give them a good fight. Signal was green, so the traffic kept moving gradually, taking my anxiety level to well above the red. When you are on such roads, your anxiety levels are any ways, way higher due to noise, dust, smoke, heat, hanky on your nose… and then someone takes your photos and runs off! Something had to be done. I was not taking it sitting in an auto. The car turned right, as the driver had doubted. Stupid driver, why did he have to say that? Hasn’t he heard of ‘if anything can go wrong, it will’, Murphy’s simple law? I shouted don’t worry, turn right and follow them. We can go from Vile Parle fly over.
The chase had started on S V Road now. The car passed the location where they shoot ‘Shapath’ and I had my first meeting with the producers. Car was now increasing the distance between us. Luckily I saw the Irla signal turning red. This is where Nokia Customer Center is located. I had just been there to get details about ‘whatsapp’ for a favorite person. Now was the chance to give a hard knock on that car window…
Suddenly I heard a shrill brake sound. Auto stopped with a jerk. My head almost hit driver’s back. Huh, he exclaimed and then said, 65.

I looked around. Oh my god! I think I need to make some corrections in the above story. It is true that I was under that fly over in Andheri. It is also true that Mumbai is perpetually under construction or repairs. Even a car had stopped next to my auto. But from here things seemed to have changed dramatically. Actually I remember it now, when that white car had stopped next me, it bounced a nice strong light that filled in inside the auto. I saw my face in the rear mirror and found the lighting interesting and clicked a picture. It came out good. Then out of greed, I took one more, thinking two is better than one. Those idiots were watching me from their car and must have found it clearly narcissistic. I hated it that they had noticed me doing that – clicking my own pictures. Though I admit to indulge in it quite often, of course in private moments mostly. But right now I felt as if someone had seen me masturbating. I told the auto driver if that car goes straight, you turn right. We will go from the Vile Parle fly over.