Nemo and the Ocean

Last month I read 5 books – a record for me. And none was begged borrowed or stolen. I got them from my favorite bookstore ‘Crossword’, recently open in Shopper’s Stop, Juhu. 2 books were old ones by Irvin Wallace, ‘The Seventh Secret’ and ‘The Miracle’, ‘Five Point Some One’ by Chetan Bhagat, about a student’s account of his years in Delhi IIT, ‘Soul Curry for You’ by Amitabh Bachchan, and a book on corporate cartoons. Now I am onto something called ‘Vihap – The Secret of Ecstatic Living’. It is written by one of Film Institute guys called Bhaskar Perinchery. He was a direction student in Jaya Bhaduri’s batch. So we studied together for one year (1969-70).
After he left FTII in 1970, we heard that he went to Haridwar or some such places in search of himself. At that time we defined it as ‘he has lost it, got into smoke and stuff, could not manage his life etc’. Today, I guess it was too early to declare all that without having first hand knowledge. Recently, I was given more authentic version of what had happened. I was told that initially Bhaskar had joined Osho in Pune and he did so well there that he was sent to run another Osho Ashram in Germany. Later he started on his own and established himself as a Guru. The back cover of his book says,”Bhaskar Perinchery is initiator of the Universal and Multiversal Academy (UMA) in Freiburg, Germany… he is also leading seminars for the inner growth and human unfoldment all through Europe.”

Now we come to the point. I started reading his book and straight away hit a passage in the form of a short story. Bottom line of the story is that in the matrix of nature, we all are equal players. Human beings play as pivotal a role as the tree and a tiger or river and a squirrel. The story drives home this point so very simply, clearly and definitely, that amazed me. It seems Bhaskar had come to Mumbai sometime back, met few of his batch mates and gifted this book to them. Vishnu Mathur, who was Bhaskar’s classmate, has lent it to me. We both are presently working part time in FTII. This book may not be available in India, which why I wanted to share it with you all. The story is about a fish just like ‘Nemo’, an inquisitive school going fish with doting parents.

The mother is a homemaker who does not have all the answers for her son’s inquiries and the father, who stumbles but manages to find Nemo simple answers. I think more people should read it through ‘you all’, because of its simplicity of tackling a topic that can help save the earth. Well… you may feel it is hell of a claim. But… read on –

Nemo: mommy what is ocean?
Mommy (rotating her eyes around): this all ocean. We are living in it. Can’t you see it?
Nemo: yeah but… this is all water.
Mommy: yes this water is called ocean.
Nemo: but why it is so important, if it is everywhere? It is here, there, everywhere. What’s the big deal?
Mommy: why if there is a lot of something it does not become unimportant.
Nemo: OK but why is it such a serious business. Everyone goes on ‘ocean ocean…’
Mommy: I don’t know what you are asking. I gave you the answer; but I guess you are not ready to take it. Go to your father and ask if he has a better language to make you understand.
Nemo feeling a little sad that he made mommy upset, hugs her. Then sheepishly asks,
Nemo: where is daddy?
Mommy: where else? Down there, tending the coral.
He runs to find him. Shouts…
Nemo: Daddy! In the colorful smoke of coral powder father peeps out.
Father: what happened Nemo?
Nemo: (shouting from a distance) what is the ocean daddy and what does it do?
Father: This! (raises his fins up) all around us. It is ocean and we live in it.
Nemo: I know, but….
Father kept his coral buffing wheel on top of the helping turtle.
Father: come, swim with me Nemo.

He looked into the direction of light and both swam off. After swimming for sometime father squinted his eyes and noticed something. Then jumped up in the air. He saw the land. He took Nemo closer to the edge of water and gently pushed him out on the sand. Soon Nemo started fluttering and getting breathless. Father kept looking at him and around him to make sure there was no danger. Now Nemo was screaming and father noticed that he could not breathe any longer. With a swish of his fin he brought Nemo back into the water.

Nemo: Huh. What was that for?
Father: do you now know what the ocean is and what it does for us?
With a question in his eyes breathless Nemo looks at father.
Father: It makes us live. Ocean is not an outside thing Nemo. It is in us and we are in it. Ocean and we are not separate things. We all jointly make the ocean. The turtle, the shark, the coral, the water together is ocean.

When we get out of Nemo’s life and enter into our own, what we see is nature that is made up of trees, mountains, rivers, lakes, air etc. We have been making a blunder by bracketing ourselves separately from all that we live in or live with. We are all in it together to flourish or there will be nothing. You know how the bracket looks with no value in it – (), a big zero. Take care.

7 April, 2007

Sepia Relationships

My work was over and I was passing through the crowded passage of the office, when I heard a ‘hey’! The voice was familiar. I looked at the person. The gait was familiar too; beard also was same, except the color. Siba – Siba Misra, a photography student from my batch. In forty years all he had developed was hint of a paunch. Earlier he used to be like a banana leaf. He was completely recognizable to my forty years weaker eyes, even in that dim evening light. ‘Siba’, I shouted and we hugged. We barraged each other with, ‘How are you? How is your family? Children? What are they doing? How is wife?’ and then answered each other. Don’t ask me if the answers are still in my system. I told a fellow recordist in the office that we know each other since 1969!

You joined them recently? He asked. I said, yes, less than three months. Very good. It is the best TV software company in Bombay. They are very strong. I did not know those details, so I said, I am sure. Siba said he is in the team of directors that make CID. His production team surrounded him, so he got busy discussing work. I patiently watched him do that. After he finished we both walked out together. He was limping. I knew the story. I also knew that when we meet and time permits, he will narrate it to me himself with all the details and underlined passages. Although, the incidence had happened more than six years ago, it still is a strong experience for anyone…

He was accompanying his son to a college in Pune. They were going by train. As the train moved, Siba lost his balance and fell between the track and the platform wall. Train wheels pulled off a large part of his flesh just above his foot. There was panic. His son pulled the chain and jumped off the train. Soon he was pulled out and made to lie on the floor. As Siba lay unconscious, his very upset son was making calls. One of them was to owner of this TV production house. Brij reached there and got him required medical care until he was fine and ready to go home…

On the staircase of the office, he pulled up the bottom of his pant and showed me his right foot. It was jet black and was very badly swollen. He wore a sock over it to keep it hidden. He was always in chappals. But that was his usual style too.

We walked talking for about 10 min to reach his humble Maruti 800, just stood there and kept exchanging more notes. We had missed personal contact for years. I asked if his foot pains while walking. It is always paining, he said flatly. Only when he gets up in the morning and swelling is less, pain is a bit less; but as the day passes it swells up and pain also goes up.

We spoke about ‘Aangan Ki Kali’, a movie that we did together. We had many good things to talk about it: it was a clean, well made film on child adoption as its central theme. You couldn’t find any part that was done unprofessionally. It was shot well. Actors were good, Rakesh Roshan and Lakshmi. The child artiste, Geeta won a national award. Music was very nice too, ‘na rona munni na tu’, ‘saiyan bina ghar soona’, ‘tumhe kaise kahoon’. Bappi da was at his melodious best then. Siba said many years back he too directed a movie, which did not fare well on the box office, forcing a setback in his career. We spoke about a lot of setbacks in both our careers. In our unorganized entertainment business, there is no security. You can be out of job for years and then suddenly bounce back sometimes without even working on it.

We both were in no hurry for anything. Our comfort zone was completely in place. I said let’s find a place to sit and have a cup of tea. It was a bit noisy there. We looked around and found a decent Udipi restaurant, but he said, forget it; we will have a ‘cutting chai’ from the pavement. We walked some more and found a tea stall. As we sipped tea from little plastic cups, he said his injured foot reacts a second late to the mental commands. So he has to be very careful while driving.

There is so much to talk about so many people you have spent time with, especially as young students. They say every human being is a volume, if you know how to read him/her. So if the story is about two people it could become an epic…

On my last day, rather last night in the FTII in 1972, we both got very drunk on desi ‘ilayachi’ liquor. We slept in the same room. Due to overwhelming insecurity, we started making promises to each other that would make us feel better: we will stay together in Bombay too. If possible even work together.

When I took an auto for Poona railway station on May 3, 1972, I don’t remember if I was upset and to what degree. But I noticed that familiar places like the main theatre, wisdom tree, canteen, badminton court that I started, security cabin and finally the overhead sign board of FTII seemed different that day. All that had been a part of my every moment for the past 3 years. I also knew that it was going to be lost for a very long time to come. No, I don’t think I had time to feel sad, because I must have been too tense about my immediate future in the most ruthless dream city. To put it on record, I went back to FTII just for a day in 1974 for my convocation and then could never go back for next ten years!

It was about time. We walked back to his car. I said I will take an auto from here, but he said; I will drop you to the signal. So just for hundred meters I sat in his car and 15 seconds later got off; jumped in an auto and waved him bye. Strangely the content of our entire conversation was far from pleasant. It was mainly about sickness, failures, accidents, joblessness; but we went through it without feeling emotions attached to such conversation. I guess because the positivity of our meeting did not allow the sadness to take over. With such friends you are always on the same page, same pitch. No loss occurs in relationship, due to time lost.

Jalal Agha

Although we are from the same alma mater, I met Jalal Agha very late in my professional life. For the first time we worked together was in a Mithun-Ranjeeta starrer film called ‘Kismet’. It was a 3 days playback shoot for him as a guest artiste. The movie was completed and released in 1980, did fairly well at the box office and then like always – all was forgotten.

Many years later we met yet again. This time it was during a seven-day outdoor shooting schedule of a Marathi TV series called ‘Pravasi’. Outdoor shootings are great adhesive agents for the unit members. Many of such friendships have got sealed for life. Pravasi was a 4 part MTDC promotional program, being made by Baba Majgaokar with whom I had just finished his earlier Marathi series called ‘Najuka’. Marathi was not Jalal’s mother tongue, but he worked hard on his lines and did pretty well. At that time Jalal and I, just about knew each other’s existence; but as I mentioned it was the outdoor shooting that really brought us closer and turned our acquaintance into a close friendship. My family too happened to visit that location for a day and that worked even more in my favor in bringing Jalal to our home; fairly often later on. Jalal was very fond of children. When you love your children a lot but can’t get enough time with them, you look for other sources to satiate your channels of missing affection. This is what happened with Jalal. After estrangement, his wife got married again and moved to Germany along with their children. I am told that saving money for traveling to Germany had become his permanent agenda. He wanted to be with his kids as often as possible. Thankfully perhaps his relationship with his wife had not soured too badly; otherwise that too might have become a major road block against him. Let me put down here some of the incidences with him that I and my family always cherish.

My daughter used to be a boarder at the St. Mary’s School, Pune. As soon as Jalal came to know of this, he offered, ‘I go to Poona often, if you need to send anything, I can gladly deliver it for you.’ For us there was always something to be sent, mainly food stuff. So sometime he would drop in at my home and pick up things or I would go to his Juhu apartment and drop them there. During her vacations my daughter would tell us that Jalal uncle visited her a few times that we didn’t even know about. He would entertain her and her friends in the school compound that made them all very happy. After all when a star comes to meet you in your school, it certainly becomes a big deal for all the young children. In fact she must have felt important among others, because ‘Jalal’ had come to meet her. My daughter told me one day that he gave her an idea to make some pocket money. He said ‘I will sign many autographs in your rough book and you could sell them for 2 rupees each.’ We still enjoy his crazy but lovely gestures like this.

One day he called me and said that he was leaving for Poona and I should get the packet to sent to his place. Around 4 pm, I reached his house with my small packet. At that time he was busy packing his own bag. I gave him the parcel. He asked ‘will you have drink?’ I said ‘no thanks, I don’t drink in the afternoon.’ He added ‘no? Actually if you don’t have a drink, I will not take your packet to Poona.’ I said ‘come on Jalal, it is 4 O’clock in the afternoon and the day is so hot’. ‘Ok, then take it back’, he handed the parcel back to me. Let me open a little window to show my inner self here.

With all the due to respect and love for all my actor friends, I often feel a bit insecure in their company. It is because I cannot fathom from their faces as to what is right and what is not and to what extent. And if the person happens to be a friend it gets all the more tedious to judge what he means. They make the scene so damn convincing. They are equipped to play the fool at will and a poor non-actor ends up playing in their hands.

Back to reality; to my shock Jalal offered me not beer or wine; but black rum with water! He kept packing his bag and kept refilling my glass as well. I think he also gave me something to munch too to counter that bitter medicine. An had hour passed. By now he had affectionately force fed me three large drinks. He was also done with his packing. I had seen my parcel placed safely inside his bag. Now he was ready to leave. He was going to drive to Poona alone. He picked his bag and we both came down in the lift. He must have enjoyed my wobbly walk.

Once we invited him once on my birthday. Generally in my house the parties used to last well beyond 1.00 am; but that day by midnight most of our friends had left and Jalal had not even made his entry. I thought either he has forgotten the day or the directions to my house. There were no cell phones then. Around 12.30 am, we gave up and started closing, when I felt someone whispered my name from the street. I rushed to the balcony; there was no one. I let it pass. In a few minutes the voice was heard again. This time we all came to the balcony; and found Jalal driving his Gypsy very slowly and calling me softly. He had been doing it for sometime; calling my name softly and driving up and down, in the hope that someone will hear and respond. He was so civilized in not screaming my name or honking in the middle of the night. In his next trip down my road, he saw us all in the balcony, parked his Jeep and came in. He was such lively person that after due ‘sorry sorry’ he made his drink, asked for Bob Marley music and let his hair down. I asked him ‘why were you whispering my name from your vehicle? You could have honked or called a little louder. Thank god it was quiet enough for us to hear you.’ He said ‘no it is too late to create a nuisance’. He had taken 3 rounds outside my gate whispering my name, because he was not sure of the building. But I am sure it is also not easy to find someone who would be that conscientious, especially an actor! [Sorry to put them in this bracket again] He made us laugh by imitating my daughter’s gestures while playing ‘Uno’. In spare time during that the outdoor shoot he used to play Uno, a card game with my daughter and my son. In fact he had introduced that game to our family and we were addicted to it for very long.

Well, Jalal sang along every Bob Marley song. He knew the entire album in sequence. One visual part that I remember is when he was about to enter the toilet to refresh, the opening music of ‘I shot the sheriff’ started. On beat, he retraced his two steps backwards from the toilet door, did a jig on the beat, sang the first line and then went in. He was totally a cool, down to earth guy and not to forget, a good friend.

He expired suddenly in Delhi due to a massive heart attack. It seems he had been warned by his close friends to get his health condition checked. But this was also true that he did not wish to spend his limited funds on himself. He wanted to save it for traveling to see his children. His body was brought to his apartment and I went to see him. Some of his family members were wondering about my identity. So I made it short and sweet. I patted his cheeks and bid good bye. His family and friends did not know that one hot afternoon sometimes in the past, this guy had blackmailed me and forced 3 stiff drinks down my throat. And now he was being forced to turn into an inaccessible star, who is not allowed to meet an unknown guy like me.