Guldasta

A bouquet of flowers picked along the way ….

Bollywood Sperm (book review) July 13, 2011

Filed under: book reviews,friends,India — gurdas @ :

What should I expect from a novella titled Bollywood Sperm? Anything Bollywood by itself is packed with controversy, spice, and silliness. Add Sperm and it becomes potent, ready to re-produce within you. Nikhil Tripathi’s first published work is good storytelling. An easy read that does not fail to raise uneasy questions. That said, this is not great writing. The dialogues are witty and entertaining, but there is nothing here, in terms of mechanism that has not already been done to death before. This is a clever book, not a classic. And maybe that is what the author meant it to be. Reason demands the question, “Is this far-fetched and almost fantastical?” Something tells me that if the sperm of a Bollywood mega-star were to become available, there will be takers. Sad, but true.

Nikhil packed a lot of re-readable sequences into this novella. I enjoyed the many shades and swings of the character of Farrukh Khan. I would prefer to see more layers in other characters but did not find any. Everyone else in the story is painted in monotone. They are either always greedy, always sad, always scheming or something along those lines. Maybe I am expecting too much within these few pages. A few other reviewers find Sumit to be a champion. I see him as a disaster. A loser who is clinging to a baby to find redemption. He marries a woman he lusts for when she is having a weak moment. Not much is said about his professional life but it seems it isn’t going anywhere. He then agrees to have his wife bear Farrukh’s baby. Okay, he does not see the baby as ugly. Unfortunately, that may not be because he is an evolved soul but simply because the baby is not demanding him to man up. He evokes pity in me and that, I know for myself, is not a positive. Sumit’s wife, Priya Kumar, Star Seed employees, and the Judge are all villains thrown in to further the plot.

The real hero here is Farrukh. Complex and charismatic, I find his character to be fascinating. He is more honest than anyone else in the story. Also enjoyable are the passages where Farrukh duels with his son, Salim.

I would rate this first novella at 3.5 / 5

Certain features/passages of the novella delighted me while some others were disappointing. Spoiler alert!

The delights

  • The pilot program description left me with some very industrial images. A nicely ‘engineered’ delight  J
  • The lab scene in the commercial is pulp fiction taking a satirical jab at real life.
  • “As you all know, babies conceived in cold weather are likely to be fair and attractive.” Wait, is that true? LOL
  • The conception sequence left me smiling.
  • “Sir, all the brands endorsed by you,” said Sumit. “Please take something.” Oh, how I’d love to see this put to film so that I can see Sumit’s and Farrukh’s expression.
  • Sumit’s reason for not having sex with his beautiful wife was like seeing a beautiful flower along an evening walk. A moment of stillness, pondering, grief, and wisdom.
  • The cover, by editor Sonal Gupta, does complete justice to what is inside.

The disappointments:

  • The use of “Idiot” by the judge is not a true representation. Indian judicial system is known to be many things not good, but I doubt a judge can get away with such language. This kind of put me off. Is the author falling into the trap of providing too much spice?
  • Twice is the “…err…” trick used to depict humor. An easy device that left me cringing.
  • Description of Sumit’s house is overly pulled down. Make everything look bleak and gain some sympathy device? Did not go well with me; need more realism here.
  • Why would Farrukh say “Shall we go for a walk?” when he is going to such lengths to hide his identity? Seems like the author wanted us to draw the image of Farrukh and Sumit taking a walk.
  • Sumit’s use of flat out party style English does not blend with his character. I simple cannot imagine this person blurting out sentences like: (1) “Of course,” said Sumit. “Just holler when you’re done talking.” and (2) “And the toolbox is in perfect working order.”
  • “The baby chewed on the stem of the sunglasses that he had been given, wondering what the fuss was about.” Too Bollywoodish and needless.

The leftovers

  • A dramatic Scene I. Maybe a little too dramatic for my taste, but entertaining nonetheless.
  • Inexplicably, the description of Farrukh Khan reminds me of Elvis. The Shahrukh connection is not lost thought.

……..

Nikhil and I go back a long way, some 19 odd years now. While Bollywood Sperm is his first published work, I have had the pleasure of reading him for many years now. For a first novella, Bollywood Sperm is very good. But I am not going to let him off easily, am I? 🙂  I have found his short stories to be extremely well written. In my opinion, they leave this novella looking ordinary.

 

the volunteer proctor who got paid in gold May 14, 2011

Filed under: Children,life,love,Me — gurdas @ :

Being around kids make me happy. Specially when they are aged 5 to 10. I find that age group old enough to have a conversation. And young enough to display marvel and surprise me.

And then there is this desire to be a part of the local community, to receive and give love, and to contribute in an organic way.

So, when East Cary MS (ECMS) asked for volunteers to proctor their end of grade tests I grabbed the opportunity. To contribute while I would get to be around kids in their natural setting was just too good to pass. I had to undergo a 1-hour proctor training where we were informed of our responsibilities and testing regulations. I missed my first training appointment due to a schedule clash but made it good on the second one, which was May 9. I was one of 6 volunteers being trained that day. And I was the only non-American. As we went through the motions I could not but compare to what I have experienced in India. The two systems could not be more different. The system in India is a little bit of rules and mostly human. The American system is completely driven by rules, highly efficient, but somewhat robotic. For example, to ensure every kid takes the exact same test, the class teacher will read instructions from a book. Such as “I will now give you answer sheets”. Yes, she will not say that in her own words. She will read that from a printed text. And every teacher in every school across the state will say the exact same words. And, the teacher cannot explain in her own words if something is misunderstood! All she can do is repeat what is written. I thought this was taking it too far. There is no way any two kids will be taking the same exam. Because they did not have the same morning, the same parents or the same worries, to name a few things. One of them might have witnessed an angry fight between parents last night, while another could have gone for a movie with the parents. Some of the other rules that caught my attention : (a) students who do not finish in the stipulated time can continue to take the test and (b) if you’ve closed your test booklet at the end of stipulated time you cannot open it again even though other students might continue to work on theirs.

That said, a few of the rules may be silly but nothing very damaging. The merits far outweigh the silliness. The uniformity does help keep things equal. The Proctor’s Guide that I had to read can be found here.

With the training done, I was all set to proctor  🙂 which I did these last two days. I had to be at the exam center by 7:30 am and the test would start by 8 am. I proctored during the Math Active (when they can use calculators) and Math Inactive (no calculators) exams. I returned from the experience a rich man, who feels he has been paid in gold. What marvellous kids! My class had 18 children. Gender wise, 12 boys and 6 girls. Ethnicity wise, about ten whites, four blacks, two Indians, one Mexican, and one that I cannot place.

During the exam, which lasted 3 hours on day one and 1.5 hours on day two, I had to walk around the room and make sure the kids were answering in the correct section, not out of step, or cheating. I did not have to worry at all about the last. Note that I can only notice and point out any irregularities to the class teacher, Ms. Ruff, an impeccably dressed and smiling middle aged lady. Overall, I did a good job and managed to catch a few students who had gone out of step. The answer sheet had choices that students have to circle. And sometimes they are marking the correct answer choice against the wrong question.

As expected, each of the 18 students demonstrated very distinct test taking strategy and behaviour. Some were slow and meticulous, others fast and impatient. Some bright, some not so bright. Some neat, other untidy (in how they worked). Kids that finished the exam before time would start drawing on scrap sheets handed earlier. And they could ask for more sheets. The boys and girls demonstrated distinct gender differences, too. The boys were drawing monsters, streets, writing their own name, block/patters/abstract designs, helicopters, shoes, aliens, excavators, and robotic faces. The girls drew flowers, superheroes (female), and decorative patterns. Some of the boys had pencil graphite all over their hands and needed wet wipes to clean up, some wanted to talk, and many wanted to show other boys their art work. The girls would draw or sit silently, be impatient to leave, or fiddle with their calculators.

However, they were all well disciplined. Ms. Ruff must have done her duties rather well! Oh, and she was great in making them feel active and ready for the exam. Between 7:30 and 8, she’d make them do some exercises and towards the end darken the room while they close their eyes and relax. Great technique! She smiled often and spoke softly but firmly. The kids did not hesitate to approach her, trusted her, and accepted her answers. I would be happy having Ms. Ruff in charge of my child!

I was almost sad leaving the test center yesterday knowing that I won’t be back the next day. I have a few more days of proctoring with ECMS in June. And I have offered to volunteer with Davis Drive Middle School this coming week. I hope they call me to volunteer. If they knew how much I like hoarding this kind of gold they’d know I would gladly pay to be a volunteer  🙂

 

Chori Chori by Reshma (song and lyrics) April 18, 2011

Filed under: love,poetry,women — gurdas @ :

The Chori Chori number sung by Reshma  (~1947 – 3 November 2013) in her signature rustic, rich, full bodied style:

.

Updated: Reshma ji passed away on 3 November 2013 after a prolonged battle with throat cancer. I was mesmerized by her singing many times in my life and since this post was written, I considered myself her friend, too. So, her passing is more than just another blip in the information overload. Reshma ji, aap ne hamein chori chori jeet liya. Khuda Hafiz (May the Lord be your Shepherd).

The lyrics (penned by Manzoor Challa), with translation:

—–

vey main chori chori tere nall la layeiaan ahkhaan vey
वे मैं चोरी चोरी तेरे नल ला लयियां अखां वे
Silently and secretly I fell in love with you (transliteration: my eyes met yours)

.

main chori chori
vey main chori chori

vey main chori chori tere nall la layeiaan ahkhaan vey

main chori chori
vey main chori chori

.

duniya tonh jakhaan te mainh; duniya tonh
duniya tonh jakhaan te mainh (pause) pyaar tera rakhaan
दुनिया तोह जक्खान ते मैं प्यार तेरा रखां
I shy away from the world and keep safe my love (for you)

.

vey main chori chori tere nall la layeiaan ahkhaan vey

main chori chori
vey main chori chori

.

maa-peyan di lajj tere leyi main gavayein ve
(repeat)
माँ पयाँ दी लज्ज तेरे लेई मैं गवाईं वे
I sacrificed the honor of my parents for you

.

tu teh anjaan saadih kadarr na paayi ve
तू तेह अनजान साडिह कदर न पायी वेह
But you remain unaware and do not value me

.

phir vih mainh jhalee hoke; phir vih mainh
phir vih main jhalee hoke (pause) rah tera takkan
फिर विह मैं झली होके राह तेरा तकां
And yet, like an imbecile, I await your arrival

.

vey main chori chori tere nall la layeiaan ahkhaan vey

main chori chori
vey main chori chori

vey main chori chori tere nall la layeiaan ahkhaan vey

main chori chori
vey main chori chori

.

pyaar piche har koyi mittiyan vi chaan da
(repeat)
प्यार पिछे हर कोई मिट्टियाँ वी छान दा
In the pursuit of love, everyone toils (transliteration: everyone sieves sands)

.

disda na ik pal, vaeri meri jaan da
दिस्दा न इक पल वैरि मेरी जान दा
Not visible for a moment, an enemy to my peace

.

eh teh ve mainh jaanideiyan; eh te mainh
eh teh ve mainh jaanideiyan (pause) taenu mere jaiyyan lakhan
एह तान मैं जांदियाँ तैनु मेरे जैय्यां लखां
I know that, for you there are hundreds of thousands like me

.

vey main chori chori tere nall la layeiaan ahkhaan vey

main chori chori
vey main chori chori

vey main chori chori tere nall la layeiaan ahkhaan vey

main chori chori
vey main chori chori

.

changeya main jaatha taenu, lakhaan jind jaan tu
(repeat)
चंगेया मैं जाता तैनु लखां जिंद जान तू
I have found you to be a good person, you are a thousand lives to me

.

rajj gayiyaan paavein bibba jag te jahan tonh
रज्ज गईयाँ पावें बिब्बा जग ते जहान तोंह
even though, sweetheart, I’ve had my heart’s content of this world

.

das manzoor keevein; das man
das manzoor keevein (pause) dil nu main dakkaan
दस मंज़ूर कीवें दिल नू मैं दक्कां
Tell me, O Manzoor, how do I stop my heart

.

vey main chori chori tere nall la layeiaan ahkhaan vey

main chori chori
vey main chori chori

vey main chori chori tere nall la layeiaan ahkhaan vey

main chori chori
vey main chori chori

—–

I was helped by my father, Parminderji, and Gagan in the translation.

I also liked the Coke Studio take, sung by Meesha Shafi:

.

Shafi’s rendition makes it seem like a song of stillness, but without any sadness. As if the love hangs there, in mid-air, neither claimed nor disowned. Non-chalant and bold at the same time. The neutrality of her tone hiding passionate expression, which is what makes it both sensuous and edgy (for me). I was asking myself “who is she singing to?” and the only answer I seem to get is “herself”.

 

Haiku – child January 10, 2011

Filed under: Children,Me,poetry — gurdas @ :

four children playing

one smaller than the rest

is also the eldest

 

giving thanks November 25, 2010

Filed under: Ethics and Values,Inspiration,life,love,Me,philosophy — gurdas @ :

Thank You

To those who did not help, for introducing me to life
To those who helped, for upholding my belief in humanity

To those who were impatient, for helping me practice patience
To those who were patient, for giving me the space to be and become

To those who were weak, for the opportunity to be strong (for you)
To those who were strong, for inspiring me

To those who were dishonest, for the examples that it is just not worth it
To those who were honest, for telling me it is worth it

To those who were unkind, for testing my ideals (and hopefully I lived up to them)
To those who were kind, for encouraging me to be the same

To those who did not love, for the moments of soul searching
To those who were loving, for showing me the only way to live

 

the joy of darkness November 18, 2010

Filed under: Children,India,Me,nostalgia — gurdas @ :

Mann Hall, third floor

Mann Hall, which houses the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering was plunged into “darkness” for a few hours today due to a transformer failure. In the two and a half years I have been here this is the first such incident. And it was tons of fun! No internet and spooky corridors. There was enough light in the corridors and rooms with windows while some of the inner rooms, like my office, did not. During my stay here, I have experienced Mann Hall every possible hour of the day. Some day I was here at 9 pm, another day at 1 am, and yet another day at 5 am. Yes, every one of those 24 hours. And I have never ever seen the corridors without man made light. Until today. It felt eerie for a moment, as if the building had been killed. But within no time, I was having fun, working in the dark, experiencing the corridors, or just chit chatting with fellow researchers about this “event”.

And my mind wandered to younger days in India when load shedding was a commonly heard phrase. It would be 8 pm and the young me would be reluctantly struggling with boring history texts when suddenly, poof!, we’d be thrown into darkness. In that split second following power outage, I know for sure, every child’s face was lit with joy. If our teeth had any irradiance it might have blinded our families, such was the total number of teeth flashing across the neighbourhood. With peals of laughter we’d spill into the streets outside and start playing. History was history and the present was running amok or hiding, depending on the game. We’d continue till power was restored and our mothers would call for us to come home. Exams were an exception because it meant studying under the flickering light of a lamp or a candle; we had battery operated electric lights only later.

City life is mostly artificial and insulates us from relishing the natural joys abound around us . So much so that we are bereft of the amazement that comes from looking at a star studded sky. “Lights out” restored some of that balance. And in those hours of darkness I had some of my brightest moments.

 

Love Care Responsibility August 22, 2010

Filed under: family,love,Me,women — gurdas @ :

Rakhi and accompanying letter from my sister

I was 9ish when she got married. So, I have no real memories of her from my younger years. Except some grainy recollections of her as the stern teacher at home. As I collected years, the bond between us metamorphosed. I went from young child to teenager to young adult to a brother. Yes, it took me a good 25 years to become my sister’s brother. Because only by the time I was 25 did our 11 year age difference stopped making a difference.

Somewhere along the way a few traditions got established, just like that. On her birthday, I would send her a personalised card. And she would send me a rakhi every year. It did not matter whether we were in different cities, countries, or continents. And just like in the past, this year too, my rakhi arrived well in time. But what makes this one more special than any before is not just the few thousand miles it has travelled but the letter that accompanies it. For this is the first time, I am being reminded of my duties towards my sister – love, care, and responsibility. Letters and the words printed on them have a surreal permanence to them. As I read the letter I witnessed the faith my sister reposes in me. For it takes nothing less than complete love and trust and the conviction of having done your duties to demand love like you deserve it. I can only hope to give back a fraction of what my sister has already given me.

And for being given the opportunity to do that, I must say I am blessed.