Movies, I believe, are truly a reflection of the society one lives in. The evolution of movies is generally in sync with the evolution of a society. Hindi cinema, when you compare it film-making in the US, is still in its early stages of evolution. Over the years, our movies have moved from being about heroes, love stories, good vs. bad to being about a strong story or a different concept. Gems like Dil Chahta Hai, Lagaan, Satyan, Munnabhai Series, Black Friday, Rang De Basanti, Taare Zameen Par, 3 Idiots, Rocket Singh show us the potential & future of Hindi movies. I happened to watch two such movies recently and thought it appropriate to write my thoughts on them. I’m technically incompetent to review movies as I know nothing about film-making, yet will share thoughts on films I had a good experience watching. While writing about these films, I won’t dwell too much into the details of the story line, but will just highlight the parts I feel are the crux of the movies.
Queen, the name suggested that the movie would be anything but what it actually turned out to be. Being someone who enjoys traveling, it was refreshing to see Rani’s (Kangana Ranaut’s character) partner-less honeymoon experience. Forgive me for repeating a well known cliché – to travel is to live. I have come across so many people who say they love traveling and seeing new places, yet very few do it – especially the ladies. Hopefully, Queen inspires people to travel (even if you have no company) – again, especially the ladies.
This film is a coming of age story of Rani through her encounters with a variety of people in countries she’s never been to before. After having her heart broken by the fiancee who pulls out of the marriage just one day before the event, she decides to go on her honeymoon alone. Our perspectives and lifestyles are shaped by the environment we live in. One comes of age when they experience things out of this environment, as does Rani. Her first real interaction on the trip is with a woman named Vijayalakshmi, working in the hotel where Rani puts up. Vijaya’s exact opposite personality vis-à-vis Rani sets the tone for the movie, giving the audience an idea of what to expect. Over the course of Rani’s stay in France, she tastes a little bit of Vijaya’s lifestyle. From being drunk and dancing on the top of a bar to changing the way she dresses, Rani let’s loose and enjoys herself in ways which would be considered ‘inappropriate’ back home. She learns that Vijaya’s good heart was enough to be friends with her, despite the stark difference in their lives. Amsterdam, Rani’s next stop, poses her with a unique challenge. Due to a rock concert in the city, most hotels were fully booked. Consequently, she is forced to live in a hostel primarily comprising of dormitories. Rani’s roommate, as it turns out, are three guys of different nationalities. Being the orthodox Indian girl she is apprehensive of sharing the room with three stranger guys. Her initial evasive behaviour towards them turns warmer by the day. Incidences like the men sleeping outside of the dorm to make her feel comfortable changes Rani’s attitude towards them. She understands that they could be trusted, even if they were of the opposite sex. The scene I enjoyed most was where our naive protagonist buys sex toys as gifts for her family while her three friends are laughing their guts out. The movie ends with Rani calling quits with her fiancee (when he tries to win her back) and walking out of his house with a confident woman’s smile on her face.
I loved the movie, not just for its feel good factor, but also for the concept – things that we often consider wrong from what has been taught to us are challenged. It’s okay to let your hair down once in a while to enjoy uninhibitedly, while it’s also perfectly fine for women to not look at strangers (men, especially) suspiciously from the word go.
The other movie I watched recently was Ankhon Dekhi. I am not sure which genre this movie would fall in, but I’d go with satirical comedy. An old man at the center of this story, this film is about how he finds his truth of life. One incident changes Bauji’s (played by Sanjay Mishra) way of looking at life. Bauji is told about how his daughter is in love with a boy who has the habit of using girls & playing with their emotions. On the basis of this hearsay, Bauji and his brother with a policeman’s help hunt the boy down. When they catch of hold of this boy, Bauji realizes that whatever he heard was incorrect. He seemed innocent & was petrified at the sight of men wanting to beat him up for being in love with this girl. This incident makes Bauji wonder – ‘why do we believe what we hear, but not what he have seen for ourselves?’ From that day on, he decides to live his life by the principle – I will believe only what I see, what I experience. Not what someone tells me. He starts questioning everything that’s told to him, and believes only what he’s seen for himself. Bauji’s family is taken aback by this sudden change in his behaviour, and they never really come to terms with it. In the process, he is followed by a group of disciples who listen to his thoughts everyday. They follow him in whatever he does, be it gambling or holding placards in the middle of busy streets that say ‘Sab kuch yahin hai, aankhein khol ke dekho’ or going to a national park just to listen to a tiger roar (just because Bauji won’t believe a tiger roars till he actually hears it himself).
By the end, Bauji asks his followers to stop listening to him and live their own experiences, because that’s their truth. His belief of having your own reality from what you have actually seen and experienced really struck me. So many of the things we do or believe are merely based on what we’ve heard or read. This also applies well to the opinions we form on current affairs – be it politics, sports, finance etc. based on the news we see. Your truth and reality is only what you see, feel and experience. Nothing more, nothing less. The movie ended with Bauji realising he has never flown before, and to to feel it – he jumps off a cliff at a great height enjoying his flight to death.
Although I watch movies regularly, there are very few that have the sort of impact of the aforementioned films. Here’s hoping that filmmakers create such work more often.
Aside Posted on Updated on
The last time I posted something here was about my trip in the North East of India and almost two months back. Events, circumstances and lethargy played a big part in my inactivity over this two month period. I hope to post my thoughts more often than not, going forward. Having switched jobs in the month of March, I thought that going for a trip just before I started my new assignment was the ideal thing to do – and fortunately, so I did.
It was in the month of January that we (6 of us friends) came to know of an airline tickets sale wherein we could book tickets at 50% discount. Thanks to Whatsapp we already a group where everyone unanimously agreed to making the best use of this sale. Knowing that 17th March (Monday) was a public holiday on account of Holi, we decided the trip dates – 15th 16th 17th. Since the duration was short, our first few ideas of the destination were somewhere close to Mumbai – eg. Goa, Karnataka. One of us then randomly mentioned Rishikesh, considering that we always wanted to go there for river rafting and bungee jumping. I looked up flights to Delhi. Return tickets between Delhi & Mumbai cost us only Rs. 7,000 and within an hour every single one of us confirmed the plan. From conception of the plan to booking of tickets, it took just one hour, which was fast even by our standards. Two weeks later I found out that I had to join my new job on 18th March, exactly after the trip. I couldn’t have really asked for better timing.
Unlike every other time, we didn’t pre-book any of our activities, stay or even transport for that matter. The element of uncertainty was a little worrying but even exciting at the same time. We reached Delhi on 14th night at 11.30 and took a bus to Kashmere Gate’s Interstate Bus Terminal. Starting at 1 AM in a state transport bus, we reached Rishikesh in the morning and booked our riverside camp. Next, we headed towards the bungee jumping site. It was not until each one of us stepped onto the edge of the plank to finally take the jump that we felt anything. From paying the fee to getting harnessed – I thought that it’s nothing great, all I’ve got to do is jump. As I stepped closer to the edge, fear finally set in. It seemed like an eternity to cover 5 steps from the seat where you are harnessed to the end of the plank. My instructor, a sweet lady called Su, started the count down. You may call my description a little hyped, but you need to really experience it to believe it. “3 – 2 – 1 – Go!” I heard. At “Go” for a fraction of a second I thought ‘What the fuck, do I really have to jump?’. In the other fraction of that second I realized I had no option but to take the ‘leap of faith’ and plunged into nothingness. Most of us have fallen from heights in our dreams (experiencing a jerk), but to experience it in real was something else. I felt absolutely numb while falling, not able to breathe or hear or shout for a good 10 seconds. It is only when you get pulled back by the rope, you realize ‘oh yea, I won’t be falling after all’ and all those senses that went numb come back to life – shouting and feeling the wind blow against my face. The fall & consequent swinging around lasts only for 30 seconds or so, but the moments before jumping and 10 seconds of free fall make the experience worth remembering for a lifetime. I’m sure sky diving (with a tandem) would be a brilliant experience too, though the feeling of a free fall can’t be matched even by the dive you take from 15000 feet.
We were welcomed by the brilliant sound of the gushing river Ganga at our campsite and a simple yet nicely cooked lunch. Looking at the greenish blue colour of the river in the heat of the afternoon, we couldn’t resist taking a dip to freshen ourselves up. Our behaviour in the water was nothing short of childlike – throwing wet sand and splashing the chilly water at each other. That evening was all about relaxing, listening to the river flow and lying down on the beach to look at the stars. I experienced flawless sleep those two nights that I spent in the tent. The calmness of the night filled with only the sound of the river made sure I slept like a baby.
The next morning we woke up, excited to finally be doing what we were looking forward to since our tickets were booked in January. ‘“You know why I love rafting? When you’re on the water, it’s all your thinking about. Everything is in the moment, I don’t really have time to think about the past.” said a character in House of Cards. When you enter the rapids, that’s exactly how you feel. We opted for the 26 km rafting as that’s the longest one available now since the 36 km is allowed only to professionals, apparently. The experience was wonderful but fell a little short of what I was expecting, especially because of the hype built around it by people who rafted here before. Later I looked up the top 10 whitewater rafting adventures in the world wherein Rishikesh didn’t feature. A video of rafting in river Zambezi (in Zimbabwe) has made sure I know where to go river rafting next. We changed into dry clothes post rafting and went for a little walk around temples and market area of Rishikesh. It was surprising to see that the market area was flooded with foreign tourists and all of them wearing Indian ethnic clothes. It felt like a more holier Goa to see so many of them. The sacred city has all the ingredients of yoga, mysticism, marijuana and sadhus to make the heady concoction that drives a materialism-weary westerner to its holy river’s picturesque sandy banks. Our search for bhaang was futile as we ended up having a green coloured sherbet which was ‘close to Bhaang’ as claimed by the vendor. It was nothing close, to be honest, as we did not feel anything even after consuming 3 glasses of it. From seeing high-on-bhaang police officers dancing to loud Bollywood music to discussing about travel & life, from everyone (except me) buying the same kurta to entering a bookstore just to check out a super hot foreigner, our evening in Rishikesh was as good as it could get.
The following morning we were to return to Delhi. Playing Holi on the sandy banks of river Ganga was something I never imagined doing. Most of the interstate buses were not even running due to the festivities but we managed to get one. Locals in Haridwar and other parts of Uttarakhand celebrate Holi so religiously that they threw balloons at our ST bus, one of which managed to get in through the window and hit a passenger. On reaching Delhi, we freshened up in a hotel room and went out for dinner & dessert. Leaving my friends in Delhi (who had a flight scheduled for 18th morning), I left for the airport via the metro. Malaika Arora Khan was on the same flight as mine, and I have to admit that she’s as gorgeous as she looks on TV (of course with the help of cosmetics!). I reached home at 2 AM in the morning with a mixture of memories of the trip and the curiosity of a new beginning playing on my mind.
The first thought that comes to me after a trip ends is ‘when will I go for my next?’. I hope a long trip is not very far away, maybe September 2014?
Till next week.
‘The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.’ My recent journey to the a part of North Eastern India was a little bit as both – traveler & tourist. To give you a brief about the itinerary, my plan was to travel to Kolkata on day 1 with a friend (as I had never been to the city before), travel to Darjeeling by an overnight train and reach our trek’s base camp on day 2 (other friends joined us there), travel to Sikkim (with 2 friends) (once the trek was done on Day 9 and return to Bombay on Day 12.
The trip began in one of the most eventful ways possible. Never had I imagined that booking early morning flights would backfire (well, almost backfired) so badly. The friend with whom I was to fly to Kolkata had gone off to sleep without any intent of waking up, or so it seemed. My 25 missed calls and his parents’ 30 missed calls had no impact on his sound sleep. Thus, I was compelled to start towards the airport, thinking of what I’d do in Kolkata all by myself. On reaching the airport, I checked in not just for myself but for my friend as well and kept his boarding pass ready – just in case he decided to turn up. Just an hour before our boarding time, I get a call from my friend who had finally woken up and realized he was late. He rushes out of his home with his bag and jeans half worn, shoes & belt in hand (yeah, in hindsight I visualise him & start laughing) trying to find a rickshaw. Lucky as he was, he got a rick within a few seconds of getting out of his home and reached the airport just in the nick of time. I could describe those 30 minutes in detail but will avoid doing so for fear of making this post too long.
Kolkata – Sweet Dishes, Not So Sweet People
So after that exciting start to our day, we boarded the flight to Kolkata. On reaching Kolkata, we thought it prudent to hire a cab for the day to help us move around the city with ease and help us keep our rucksacks somewhere safe. We went to Kali Mandir, Victoria Memorial, Park Street & Howrah Bridge. To be very honest, we found this trip around the city average. None of the places blew us away, but then that’s probably because our expectations were pretty high. The thought of getting on one of the trams faded away when we saw that it was slower than people walking on the road. My intent is not to criticize the city just that we didn’t enjoy it as much as we thought we would. The other very striking feature of Kolkata that we noticed was that its people were not as sweet & welcoming as the sweets they make. Obviously, our interaction with 12 people is no reason for us to generalize & form an opinion about the folks who live there. Although, out of the 12 we spoke to for various reasons, 11 turned out to be not-so-helpful. Worst of these 12 guys was our very own driver, who got pissed off every time we asked him to stop the cab. Anyhow, Kolkata was a different experience from what I’ve had in other big cities like Bangalore, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Chennai. I would definitely want to stay there for a little longer to know the people and culture even more.
Darjeeling – Bengal’s Balcony to a beautiful view of Kanchenjunga
We reached New Jalpaiguri station the following morning from where we took a cab to Darjeeling. On our way to Darjeeling, the numerous football & cricket fields pleasantly baffled us. After completing our registration formalities with YHAI at the hotel, we freshened up and went out to roam about the place. The locals were, as you’d expect, absolutely fit. It was rare to find anyone overweight or ‘not in shape’. Of course, their commute primarily involved mainly walking up and down the steep slopes & their diet further aided their fitness levels. Not only were they in shape, but also had fashion sense that would put people from metros to shame. This was a feature that we came across in Sikkim as well. It was a visual treat to watch these fit, good-looking people dressed up so well. It almost made us feel as if we had come to a foreign land. When you look at Kolkata & then Darjeeling, there will be no doubt in your mind that the Gorkhas deserve a separate state. Even though I don’t generally support the idea of having newer states in an already diverse country, you can’t help but feel that Gorkhas have nothing in common with Bengalis. They both have different cultures, appearances, lifestyle, history & interests. In no way will Gorkhas represent anything about West Bengal – and thus the demand to have a separate state that represents their identity & culture seems justifiable.
Day 3 started with warm up exercise and a good short jog around the place. We saw the snow-capped Himalayas with its 2nd tallest peak – Kanchenjunga standing majestically right in the centre. After some local sightseeing, we were briefed about the trek and the route post which everyone introduced themselves. And thus, we spent our last night in the pleasant weather of Darjeeling before beginning our trek on the following day.
Day 4 began pretty interestingly for me, of which I may write in April of 2014. The entire batch got ready and assembled for the flag off to begin our journey. On reaching the starting point by a jeep, we were introduced to our 2 trek guides. Both of them lean, fit & unbelievably young! One of them was 23 years old and he was responsible for leading the group. Looking at their normal backpacks, we felt a little foolish to have carried such huge rucksacks. By the end of the trek, we realized it was indeed stupid to have carried more than 2 pair of clothes as that’s the maximum required for such a cold journey.
Sandakphu – The highest point of West Bengal
The trek was fairly normal in terms of the route. All along we had to walk on roads formed of rocks. Challenge on this trek was twofold – to walk at a consistent pace & reach each camp on scheduled time & be able to bear the bone chilling cold as we went up to the highest point of West Bengal, Sandakphu. We did well on both accounts and it was a major relief to come back in one piece. The trek route went through Nepal, which technically made it an ‘international trek’. We lived in pucca accommodation at all our camps. Local hosts at each camp were as hospitable & warm as one could be. They carried bright smiles on their faces whenever serving food or helping us out. It makes you think when people living in such difficult weather conditions were always smiling and going about their work so enthusiastically. Throughout the journey, we had mountains around us & the weather got colder as we went up. It was my first encounter with snow and a bone chilling one too. Due to very short days and lack of sunlight, the cold got worse (highest temperature being -5o and lowest being -14o). It was very interesting to find the snowflakes falling were mostly star-shaped or flower-shaped. Admittedly, the best part of our trek was its descent. As we came down from Sandakphu, the weather got pleasant and the surroundings got greener. We even met with a river on the way down to our last camp – where we had the best time on the entire trip. Getting away from the noise and pollution of a metro, you can’t find a better place than a river to relax. The sound of the water flowing can calm your mind like nothing else. After an arduous 5 days of the trek, we collected our certificates & moved on to our next destination.
Sikkim – Beautiful People, Beautiful State
We spent most of our time in Gangtok on this trip, did local sightseeing and went to Tsomgo Lake. Gangtok is now one of my favourite cities after this visit. The people here are not only beautiful & fit, but also absolutely well dressed (as I mentioned above). We couldn’t find one person living on the streets and begging to earn their livelihood. The economy seemed simple; most of the people worked for the Government or had their own simple businesses (retail shops & tourism related). Gangtok shut down by 9 PM and it was absolutely surprising to find people follow rules on the roads. Every single person used the footpath to walk around and drivers followed traffic rules to the hilt. I believe that’s the only way you can bring efficiency in administration of a city. If citizens follow rules & do what they’re supposed as ‘good citizens’, most of the problems get solved. We also watched a movie in a single screen theatre after a long time, as there are no multiplexes in Gangtok. Our journey to Tsomgo was one of the best I’ve ever been on. The beauty on our way up to the lake was astounding. It was unfortunate that we went on days when Nathula Pass was closed; else we had planned to make a trip to the Indo-Chinese border. We also skipped a 2 day trip to North Sikkim due to paucity of time. Although, we liked Gangtok and the little we saw of Sikkim so much that another trip back to that state is very much on our minds.
It was my first time in North East and will definitely look to go back in the next 3 years. People looking to go for 7-8 day holidays should consider Sikkim (air travel to Bagdogra from any of the metros, and cab to Gangtok). One can avoid Darjeeling as there isn’t much to do; Sikkim has a lot more to offer & gives one everything Darjeeling does and more.
Well, although this post was long, I tried to cover everything I could think of importance. It will be a good read for me down the years when I want to relive this journey.
Until next time.
It’s been a while since I posted something on here and I feel atrociously guilty about it. Time has been flying away with work and other stuff and it looks like a few more weeks before I can sit, relax & do the analysis I have been intending to post on here about a particular football club. Till then, I want to post a (attempted) short story I wrote 2 years back. A BIG DISCLAIMER that you might just find it ridiculous, but nevertheless I would enjoy feedback – however critical. So, here you go!
“Bark”, I answered Farhan’s call.
“We’re going to Kolad. So get ready, take a pair of shorts, and one tee. I guess a towel wouldn’t hurt either,” Farhan said with the excitement equivalent to that of a school boy going for his first swimming lesson.
“Faggot, it is 5 in the morning. Let me sleep”, I retorted and hung up. And the very next second the cursed phone rang. “What!!” I shouted.
“Don’t screw around! I am coming to pick you up. Nishant, Barry, Akash, Tushar and Sumit have already left. I’m ready to leave. You better get your lazy ass off that bed and get ready within the next 15 minutes”. Farhan disconnected the phone leaving me in a dilemma. It is the toughest decision to decide between sleep and a 4 hour insane rafting experience that our group had been planning since so long. I knew that I had to get up early for this expedition. It wasn’t something that Farhan and the others had just planned at 5 in the morning, although the idea of sleeping in my warm bed on a cold winter morning was just too tempting. After a few minutes of curling around in my bed, I mustered up the strength to get out of my bed to get ready.
I packed my bag and put on my slippers to stop the mad honking of Farhan that he had been doing ever since he reached. I opened the door just to be greeted with a furious frown on his face as if I had murdered his girlfriend.
“You’re such a girl. You take a lifetime to get ready.”
“Well I can’t help it if your patience is as low as your IQ.”
We got into his 10 year old Esteem as I got geared up for a nice cold 3 hour drive. The thing about long drives is that nothing else makes you feel so fresh. You stick your head out of the window and enjoy the cold winding lashing across your face, the feeling only a free man can feel. It took me a while to come back to reality and notice that Farhan’s age old car was not even starting.
“So when are you planning to do away with this old piece of crap… sorry – scrap?”
That very moment the car roared out of its sleep. “There you go!” Farhan exclaimed while we both grinned broadly at each other.
I got my iPod out of the bag and plugged the Senheisser earphones Dad gifted me on turning 21.
“Do you think I’m your driver?” Farhan snarled at me just as I got ready for a round of my favourite songs.
“Yea I do. So just concentrate on your job rather than getting pissed at me.” Taking a look at his bloodshot eyes staring at me I quietly put my iPod back into my bag.
“I was watching the Manchester United game last night. Even though I support Liverpool, I can’t help but admire Manchester United’s way of playing the game. They were 2-0 down in the first half and bounced back to win 3-2 by the end of the game. You just have to admire that”, Farhan said.
“Yeah, the thing with them is that they are too strong in the mind. They win the match in their mind before it even starts. You know like they say, half the battle is won in mind before it is even fought on the field. Especially, if you look at a player like Nadal – he’s so tough in the mind with his never-say-die attitude that he’s a legend at 24 already. I think that’s the best thing about Sports. You become strong not just physically but even mentally. And it teaches things that you’d never learn reading books or attending lectures.”
Farhan smiled in agreement. “Yep, and I guess it is completely opposite with the artists. Have you noticed how artists are mad people with really weird lives that they live? I guess that madness is the reason for the creativity that they ooze. Like Kishore Kumar, he was one crazy fellow although he’s a legend today.”
I laughed at his observation. There definitely was some sense to it. How different are sports personalities and artists! One of them becomes a legend for the strength of his mind while the other becomes a legend for the vulnerability of it; talent, obviously being the common factor.
Chatting away and enjoying the wind we didn’t realize how an hour had gone past. Being a winter morning it was pitch dark even at 6.30. Since I had not eaten anything after getting up, my hunger started to grow. “You got anything to eat?” I enquired with Farhan.
“Yeah I got some sandwiches. I thought we’ll have breakfast on the way to avoid getting late.”
“Flash of occasional brilliance. Give me some, I’m too hungry.”
“You can talk normally for once without taking a dig at anything and everything I do”, he said with a straight face.
“Argh… my back is also paining. I played football for 5 hours yesterday. It’s becoming difficult to drive at a stretch. I think we should halt for 10 minutes while you have your sandwiches and I take some rest”, he suggested.
I nodded in agreement. With a screeching sound, Farhan brought the car to a halt. Farhan stretched a little after getting down while I hogged on the sandwiches. Just as I was having the last piece I noticed a very old building in shambles right on the opposite side. I told Farhan about it.
“Wow… unusual to find a building on a deserted highway with nothing else but trees and barren land around, eh?” He observed.
“Yeah… anyway, what do we care? Let’s get going. We need to be there on time.”
We got back into the car; and a repeat of the same problem. His car just wouldn’t start. Funny thing was that this time around, we just couldn’t afford to not have it start. We were in the middle of a deserted road with nothing but a destroyed building around us.
“C’mon you old bitch! Just start, will you!!?” Farhan shouted in exasperation.
I was just staring at him attempting to start. 30 minutes. The car just won’t budge.
We looked at each other, tensed. I checked for the nearest petrol pump or a car service centre in the vicinity on my phone. Luckily there was a car repair shop just an hour of walk away. We didn’t have any option but to call them.
“Hello, is this Ganesh Garage?” I asked.
“Yes.” A voice replied.
“You see, we were going towards Kolad and we’re stuck on the national highway just an hour away from your shop. There’s this old building around us but nothing else. Our car has broken down and it isn’t starting. Could you please send one of your men to help us out?”
“We don’t send our men for such errands. This place you’re saying is quite far. Sorry, but we can’t send anyone.”
“Please boss. Look we’ll pay you twice the charges, but we urgently require someone to help us out.”
“Hmm… it’ll be 3 times the regular charge. Or else chuck it.” The opportunist knew we needed him badly. We gave in to his demand.
“Lord! We’re screwed. The rafting is bombed and we’ll pay thrice the money to this bastard. These guys’ phones are not reachable. I knew this was the problem of Kolad. It’s so deep inside the forests’ that phones hardly reach! To top all that, we’ll have to wait for an hour over here without knowing whether the guy will even come or not.” Farhan seemed to be really upset.
I found it amusing the others. It definitely wasn’t their fault if their phones weren’t reachable.
To calm Farhan down I suggested to him – “Look, it will take the mechanic another hour to come. Why don’t we just relax till then? We can’t do much about the situation that we are in… Umm… hey look..! That building right there… let’s go there?”
Farhan shot back, “Look! First of all, stop acting like my mom! And secondly, that’s not a freaking building blind ass! That’s some palace like structure! So stop calling it a building.”
I was taken aback by his reaction. Farhan is a short-tempered character, but the look on his face and the tone in his voice was a mix of tension and frustration. I didn’t react but just mumbled something to end the conversation.
“I’m sorry for shouting like that.” Farhan apologized.
“It’s alright. I know you’re tensed about this whole situation. Let’s just walk around or maybe take a look at that build-, sorry, the palace-like structure or something?” I suggested.
“Yeah, but we’ll be back soon. I don’t want to miss the mechanic.”
We took our bags and walked started walking towards the structure, when Farhan piped all of a sudden, “You can call it the Haveli instead of “a palace like structure” “.
I smiled and we walked on. The Haveli, as I was allowed to call the structure, looked ages old from the outside. It had one floor with six windows that could be seen on the frontal side. The Haveli had a rectangular structure on the top of it which was broken from one side, like someone had cut down a portion of it. It was black but had a lot of white and green patches while a lot of the black paint was coming off at places. As we went closer I noticed that all the glasses of the window panes were broken. It seemed like no one had touched the Haveli in a very long time. I was itching to know what it would look like from inside.
“This Haveli has a feel of those millions of Havelis we must have seen in Hindi movies. I should have gotten my camera along, could’ve taken some really nice photos”, Farhan rued.
“Yeah, this place has a bit of an eerie feeling about it. Thank God we’ve come here in the day… It’s almost 7.30 and the sun is out. So it won’t be really dark in there”, I assumed.
“If you haven’t yet observed, the place is surrounded by a lot of trees. I doubt a lot of light must be reaching in there”, he corrected my presumption.
Come to think of it, I didn’t notice the trees around the place till now. I think it must be because of the attraction the structure has had that I have just seen it continuously ever since we decided to take a tour around.
We reached the entrance. The door was open much to our surprise. I went closer to the door holding out one arm to try and push it open just before Farhan pulled me by my other inactive arm. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? We can’t trespass some property just like that. We could be in trouble.”
“Well at least it doesn’t have a sign saying ’Trespassing will result in Prosecution’.” I defended.
“Don’t get all technical. Listen to me, we’re better off waiting at the car. This place is already chilling my spine. Let’s just get back to the car, please?”
“If you’re such a pussy, you can go back. I’ll just take a small tour and come back.” I was determined to go in. I couldn’t take control of my curiosity.
“Alright but a quick look around and we’ll get out.”
I pushed open the door. The so typical noise of the door creaking already got the hair on our necks standing. My excitement mounted as I ventured in while Farhan was even more scared than what he was earlier.
“Farhan, will you calm down? It’s not like you’re alone. So just relax. We’ll be out of here soon”, I assured him to keep his balls from buzzing with tension.
He went to being a bit normal after hearing what I told him.
We moved into the main sitting area. It was a huge hall, gigantic – for the want of a more appropriate word. From the outside, no one could have guessed about the size of the area inside. The Haveli was just not as per what I had expected it to be. After seeing so many Hindi movies, I had expected it to be a traditional Haveli with antique interiors and wall paintings of the ancestors who once lived there. This Haveli just had pillars and chequered flooring with 2 sofas in the sitting area. The sofas were antique, yes. The ceiling had a nice chandelier hanging though it wasn’t lit. The only sources of light were the small bulbs that were on with a few candles lit near the sofas. Looking at this, I immediately concluded – “There’s someone in the Haveli.” I turned around to tell Farhan what I thought. Before I could say anything, Farhan pointed to his left trying to show me something. I turned around to see what he was showing me. I could see a small weak figure approaching us slowly with a lantern in his hand. The silhouette of the figure made it obvious of that it was a man.
“Let’s get out of here before he tries to talk to us”, I murmured to Farhan.
“Huh?” Farhan could barely hear what I said. He was too petrified after looking at the person to even pay attention to what I was saying.
The man came closer and we could see him clearly in the light. He was bald, wearing a white dhoti and a white sleeved vest. The vest was torn from parts. The man looked very old. He must have been more than eighty. His face was deeply furrowed due to his age. He was very thin, in fact, he looked a bit malnourished. His eyes were the most striking feature of his personality. His eyes were big and round, a little bit protruding. The thing with bald men having protruding big eyes is that they look shit scary by default. All this while I had kept my calm, but as I saw him at 2 feet away from me, I had sweat trickling down my ear in my hair.
“Yes gentlemen, could I help you’ll in any way?” the man spoke in a very hoarse voice, the kind of voice that you’d have as a result of speaking after a long spell of silence.
“Aaah, no no. Actually, well nothing. We just happened to, aa..”, I was finding it difficult to explain to him since I was almost as scared as Farhan by that time.
The old man smiled revealing his gums. He had no teeth. “Why don’t you just sit down for a while and relax while I make you some hot tea to keep you warm in this cold?” He prodded us towards the sofas. Both of us were quite frozen to take any decision on our own so we just followed his cue. After settling us on the sofas, the old man slowly walked towards the place from where he had come. Losing sight of him made me come back to my senses.
“Farhan, let’s just get the hell out of here before he comes”, I suggested.
“Huh? What..? Dude… I don’t understand what’s going on.”
“Okay, listen to me. Just get up and follow me. We’re leaving this place.” I got up from the sofa and took two steps towards the entrance. Farhan had still not gotten up. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I scolded him in a hushed voice.
“Dude what’s wrong? Just get up, will you?” I pulled him by his hand to help him get up.
Finally, Farhan got up on his feet and started moving along with me, but just then the old man was back with a tray with two cups in it.
“Please sit down while I make you a cup of tea. After you have warmed yourself you can either stay or leave.” His voice was much clearer this time. The way he asked us to sit down was very authoritative like he had been telling people what to do and what not to all these years. We sat down. Since he had given us the option to leave after having his tea, I thought it was better to just quickly sip the tea and leave this God forsaken palace.
He made us two cups as I made Farhan sit. The weirdest thing about this experience was the way Farhan was behaving ever since he had set his eyes on the old man. He was just not himself. I kept that thought at bay for the moment. The important thing was to have the tea to be able to get out.
“Here you go.” The old man smiled while offering us both cups of tea he had made. To my utmost shock, Farhan coolly accepted his teacup. All this while he was not able to move and after seeing his sudden change of behaviour just shook me. It was as if he was possessed by that old man. I was repenting every moment that I spent in that place. My curiosity had led me to all this. I should have listened to Farhan.
“So where are you guys heading to?” The old man asked Farhan while I sipped the tea. And as I guessed, Farhan replied smoothly, like he was talking to me in the car. “We’re going to Kolad, sir, for an outing with friends. Our car broke down on the way so we’re waiting for the mechanic to come and help us out.”
I was too stunned to say a word. I sipped on my tea. Despite my tongue getting burnt due to the heat of the tea, I had it very quickly. While the old man and Farhan were talking like they knew each other, I was waiting for Farhan to get done with his tea. Looking around, I noticed the huge wooden stair case right in front of me that led to the first floor. I did not notice it in the beginning as it was not visible when you entered the Haveli. It was visible from the place where I was sitting.
To feel at ease, I thought it was imperative to be involved in the talk with the old man. So I asked him while Farhan was having his last sip – “So are you the caretaker of this place?”
“Yes, I am. The owners of this home do not live here anymore. The ones, who did, died 50 years back. So since then I’ve been in-charge to take care of this palace.”
After finishing his tea, Farhan asked “So do people come here often?” I was too irritated with him asking that question. He just prolonged the stay by a few more seconds. In desperation I looked up as if praying to dear God to get me out. I couldn’t believe what I just saw, or rather what I did not see. The chandelier that I had seen when I had come in was not there!
“No, people don’t come here. I have had visitors after decades, I think.” He said with his usual toothless smile.
“Where is the chandelier?” I asked the old man.
“I’m sorry? What chandelier?”
“The chandelier that was there right above our heads.”
“I’m sorry but I don’t get you. There was no chandelier.”
“There was! I saw it. How can it just vanish? Farhan, didn’t you see it too?”
“Dude what are you on about? There was no chandelier.” Farhan replied, shocking the nuts out of me.
I didn’t argue further. I was sweating like a pig from the moment onwards.
Farhan, to my relief, told the old man “I think we’ve intruded too much into your privacy, I think we shall take your leave now.”
The old man smiled and said “Sure son. Keep coming, the place has been missing you.”
Farhan laughed at that. I was clueless as to what the old man said. Missing Farhan? How the hell can the place miss a person that has never been to that place before? What was all that about?
I kept those thoughts out of my head. I did not want any more rubbish to deal with. Getting out was the only thing on my mind. As I got up, I noticed that the candles right next to the sofa were not there anymore.
“Where are the candles that were here, right here?” I asked the old man.
“What candles son?”
I knew what was going to follow. I was just ignoring these peculiar things happening around me in my desperation to escape. We started walking towards the door as the old man was escorting us.
I opened the door and got out to fresh air, to freedom. Just as I turned around to see what Farhan was doing, I had my eyes wide open. He was touching the old man’s feet and bid him a warm goodbye. My eyes could have popped out any minute. I couldn’t understand what this trip was turning into. Madness! “Keep coming son.” The old man told Farhan.
Farhan smiled at the old man and my last sight of the old man shocked me beyond belief. He smiled at us with fully grown shining white teeth. I was dumbfounded. I could have fainted at that moment, had it not been for the missing car. I saw the deserted road to find our car missing. “Where is out car!?”
Farhan merely smiled at me and walked towards the road and stood there – “I think it’s there.” I quickly went towards him to see where he was pointing at. As I was rushing towards him I just felt my cell phone fall out of my pocket. I turned around to pick it up. The worst was yet to come. The palace was not there anymore. Instead, there was a barren land with just NOTHING.
“Oh my God! Farhan! Just take a look at that. The Haveli is not there anymore. Farhan!!” I shouted, walking backwards, as my balls froze due to fear.
“FARHAN!” I shouted when I did not get any reply. I turned around.
He wasn’t there.
“I believe the target of anything in life should be to do it so well that it becomes an art.” The man who said this, is living it as well. Arsène Wenger turned 64 years old this week and unfortunately, his beloved Arsenal lost to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on his birthday. Before the match, he was asked about how he’d celebrate his birthday to which his reply was, “I don’t celebrate birthdays as I don’t find them special. I wouldn’t even know if someone didn’t remind me. For me, the best present will be a good game of football today.” Such is his love for the beautiful game, such is his desire to excel at football that it becomes art. And if there’s one person who has made football look like art, it’s Arsène Wenger. From being born & raised in a village named Duttlenheim to being Manager of the Decade 2000-2010, Arsène has come a long way. His initial years at Arsenal were marked by some extraordinary football and astounding achievements which included a run of Arsenal being unbeaten throughout the season. Although Arsenal have not won a trophy since 2005, as an Arsenal fan I believe in the vision of Arsène Wenger. After reading his biography, I admire him even more. On this occasion of Arsène’s birthday (well it was 3 days ago), I will reflect upon his life & career that makes him not only one of the best managers in the world but an amazing visionary and how we can learn from him.
“Football is an art, like dancing is an art – but only when it’s well done does it becomes an art.” – Arsène Wenger
From 1996 to 2005 he won 3 Premier League Titles, 4 FA Cups and 4 Community Shields with limited budget and unknown players. His team not just won, but won in style and with flair that was envied by every other team. Arsenal ran through teams & defenses like they did not exist on the pitch, all courtesy of one man’s philosophy. To date, Wenger builds teams that can play the game so well that it becomes art. It’s one thing I’ve learned most from him, whatever your work – do it so well that it becomes a beautiful experience. Excellence may not result into yielding immediate results, but the long term accomplishments makes the whole process extremely enjoyable.
“Building Emirates Stadium is the biggest decision in Arsenal’s history.” – Arsène Wenger
In 2005-06, Arsenal made one of the biggest investments in the club’s history – The Emirates Stadium. From the earlier stadium of Arsenal called Highbury which had a seating capacity of approx. 40,000, Arsenal built a world class stadium with a capacity of 60,000. It was Arsène Wenger & the management’s decision to have a world class stadium with state of the art training ground. The intent to have such a stadium and infrastructure was simple – ambition to be the best club in the world one day. Obviously, the club is still waiting to see its risk come to fruition by winning major honours but they are on course to achieve it. Anyone who wants to achieve big things will come to face a dilemma at some point in their lives – whether to take the plunge or no, whether it’s worth the risk or not. It’s times like these that decide the future course of your life & career. Big risks don’t guarantee any returns, but they give you the satisfaction of at least having tried. Arsène’s big risk to invest in the stadium is just that example. We’ll see over the next 20 years as to how this investment plays out, and if it plays out well – this decision to take the plunge will win all the praise.
“We do not buy superstars. We make them.” – Arsène Wenger
When Arsenal decided to invest heavily in the Emirates stadium, the club was forced into a situation where they needed to be financially conservative. There have been examples of football clubs who went bankrupt when they lived beyond their means, so it was crucial that Arsenal not only manage finances well but also continue to compete at the top level. Arsène was the man for this particular job. Since he could not buy super star players as he had no money, he bought unknown young players and turned them into superstars. Although this strategy did not exactly work out the way he wanted it to. All the stars he produced, left him when he most needed them. He believes in building teams, and mind you, it is a very difficult job. It requires unbelievable amount of patience, and even after being patient you are not guaranteed of a result. Wenger made superstars out of nobodies and they all left him when he thought he finally built the team he wanted. Imagine, it’s like building your home – you design & construct it brick by brick, and when you finally complete it, it’s taken away from you. Such a loss is heart-wrenching and it requires incredible amount of courage and character to restart building your new home. Of course, it requires patience too. This experience of his teaches us to be patient and to do what you feel is right. The result of your years of effort could be positive or negative, in case it’s negative you start working again – you don’t give up.
“I will not speak about another club’s player openly as it is disrespectful to the club. If we can buy a player in an amicable way, we will do it.” – Arsène Wenger
It is very rare that you’d find a person as classy and as humble as Wenger. The above quote came from Wenger when he was trying to buy a player from another club. The club he was trying to buy from publicly slated Wenger for putting in low bids that did not match the player’s value. I am sure very few can respond to such a situation in the way he did. When someone publicly makes remarks against you, your immediate reaction would be to get back at them by something nasty. We call it a ‘comeback’. Here you have a man whose ‘class’ was under question as the club called Wenger ‘class-less’ for putting in a low bid for the player. He responds by saying “If it is possible to buy the player in an amicable way, I’ll do it”. It’s fair to say that with age, he’s developed this control over his reactions. Calm as a cucumber in his responses without ever making derogatory statements. All of us can learn this important virtue from him, to maintain your dignity and class in all situations possible. It’s very easy to get angry and abuse or insult in public, but it’s as difficult to maintain your cool and deal with the situation, as Arsène would say, in an amicable manner.
“I want that we produce 60% of the team from our own Academy, they will be the core & culture of the team.” – Arsène Wenger
Football today is characterized by big money players & signings. Real Madrid recently paid close to GBP 80 million for one player. In this environment of insane financial clout, Wenger maintains his philosophy and vision. His belief that you should produce at least 60-70% of your team from your own academy is the best example of a ‘self-sustaining’ business model. Someone once said that Wenger manages the club like he’ll will own the club for 100 years. Arsenal FC are fortunate to have such a man at the helm of their affairs. What he’s doing today will echo in eternity. It’s very easy to relate this to our lives as well. You may be the CEO of a company one day or may have your own business – the one thing that will help you do well for your company / business is the vision. Taking decisions as if you will own the business forever can only help to secure the future of it.
Despite all the great things Arsène Wenger is doing for the club, there are many Arsenal fans who hate him because he hasn’t won trophies recently. It’s the shortsightedness of those fans that doesn’t allow them to see what Wenger is doing for the club’s long term future. Yet, with all the criticism, he carries on doing what is in the best interests of Arsenal. As he says, “I am guided by my own vision, not Facebook or Twitter”.
Arsène Wenger is Arsenal’s Dark Knight – the hero Arsenal fans need but don’t deserve.
In today’s world of cheap and easily available internet, life has become far more smooth and quick. There was a time when to find out the meaning of a word, I would look up the thick Oxford dictionary. To find the location of a city / town on the map in an Atlas used to cause a lot of excitement. Going to Crossword in order to buy a book you’ve longed to read but couldn’t do so because it wasn’t released in India yet. Going to single screen movie theaters hoping that you don’t see a “House Full” board, else you’d have to pay double the price for a ticket in the black market. Calling up friends on their landlines one after the other to make a plan for dinner or a match of cricket. When hard copies of photos were the only way of capturing memories. When meeting friends was the only option to be in touch with them.
In the last 10 years or so, I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a dictionary – let alone use it. My 12 year old Atlas hasn’t been opened since I found out the genius of Google Maps. Flipkart has made life easy for avid readers, purchasing a book is now just one click and a debit card away. BookMyShow and the numerous multiplex theaters have made sure that one never misses a movie in its first week (unless the movie is The Dark Knight Rises and you haven’t pre-booked on the day bookings opened). Digital Cameras, Instagram, Picasa have made sure that you will never need hard copies of memorable moments. Facebook, GTalk, Whatsapp, BBM have ensured that you stay in touch with your friends, no matter where you are.
My simple (and obvious) point being that over the last 10-12 years, technology has seen some amazing advancement which has made life for humans not just easy, but fast. Everything is available at a click of the mouse.
The other important impact this development has had, is on information. All sorts of data can be found on the internet in varied forms. Organized & abundant data leads to a more clear picture for the users of internet. Say you want to read about the 1991 Indian Economic Crisis – Wikipedia’s structured, detailed & informative description on the crisis helps a reader get the entire story and background at one place. This enhances his / her understanding of the event and form an informed opinion. [There are obviously cons about what is written on the internet as well, but I will leave it for some other day.] So why am I talking about information & opinions? Well, isn’t that what a blog supposed to be about? Information & opinions.
A blog (short for web log) when written and maintained by an individual essentially dishes out his / her opinion, views and thoughts on any topic under the sun. I started following blogs when I wanted to know someone else’s views on topics / events that interested me as well. For example, I am an ardent Arsenal Football Club supporter and follow every game and event of the football club. There’s a very good blog out there by the name of Arseblog which speaks about Arsenal’s match performances, events, players etc. Arseblog does a wonderful job of writing about his views and it’s a joy for a person like me to follow it. Blogs bridge gaps between people with common interests having their individual opinions. It helps one person to let his views known to the world, while the world to know what that person thinks and how aligned are their thoughts. There are also numerous blogs which turned into profitable ventures. If you just have a look at the top 5 profitable blogs from the list, they provide news, information, developments about the field / topic covered by these blogs.
Opinion & Information.
So why have I taken up to blogging? Is it to share my opinions or is it to provide information within a particular field to the reader? As the title suggests and as each “venture” has for itself, I have the following Mission, Vision & Objectives for my blog –
Mission – Penning down your thoughts is more helpful than pondering. It gives you a sense of direction in your thinking. It not only helps me organize my thoughts, but also hopefully gets me feedback from anyone who reads it.
Vision – To make this blog a – as accountants would say – “going concern” activity of my life. In simple words, the vision is for this blog to be active till I am.
Objectives – There’s no intention of making it a profitable venture, far from it. The only motive behind starting to write a blog is to be able to write about things that interest me. Hence, I will not cover any specific topic either. Anything that I wish to write about, I will put it down here.
It’s a start. Start of a new activity, which hopefully will drive me enough to continue blogging for a long time to come.
Until next time.