Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Indian Railways Experience

Last night Shobha, Anjali, Raja and I took the Dakshin Express or the Hazrat Nizamuddin Express from Hyderabad to travel to Nagpur. Since the tain was to leave at 2230 hrs we left home by a cab at 2115 hrs, making room for any possible traffic jams. Of course there were none and we landed up at the Nampally Railway station by 2140 hrs. The station was barricaded and there were some ten thousand cops it seemed guarding it. We wheeled our luggage through a metal detector which beeped as usual which indicates God knows what and we entered a crowded, smelly, sweating station full of passengers looking to get away somewhere. Of course, there was no place to sit anywhere.

We waited and waited until there was an announcement that the train would leave at 2240 then 2245 and ten
2250 and then in a dramatic change, the train arrival itself become 2300 hrs. By now, we were all rather tired and were considering other options to travel. Just then the train backed itself into the platform and we walked about a few kilometres before we found our compartment. I mean we needed to board B2 but we found an A2 and then a compartment which was just 2. After some initial confusion we, experienced as we were, deduced that this must be the errant B2  and checked the lists. Our names were on it. Yes!

Have the trains become small or what? But everything was crowded and cramped in this 3rd AC compartment. You move this way and something gets stuck into somebody, you move that way and someone might get poked in the eye. Spreading those sheets, the blankets and all that is another huge well coordinated activity with everyone clearing the way as one person does it and then another. The helpful attendant came and told me that he would get the pillow covers and leave them - we could get them on the pillows ourselves or wait for him.

A very unfriendly sort of  TTE was around. A young girl asked him if he could somehow help since they have an elderly person travelling and there was no lower berth. He very rudely and loudly told her that there were no vacancies and there was nothing he could do. Only after much pleading did he concede enough to even tell her that maybe she could request someone else. One wants to intervene and tell these guys off but one does not because that could do more harm than good to the girl and her elderly relative.

The toilets had toilet paper rolls which was an improvement and one could see the attendant rushing around with new rolls. (Hopefully not bought at the Commonwealth prices.) However the loo doors were rusty and cranky and would not shut properly, the flush would not work (all which would not surprise any true blue railways traveller) and the attendants and the TTE behaved as if we were all intruding into their private heaven. I am 6 feet 2 in and since the berths are 6 ft in length, all night I had people banging into my feet and almost causing severe damage to them. (Who asked you to grow so tall? We should charge you a tallness surcharge for inconveniencing others). Not to put the railways down or anything - just recording what goes on and how much we put up with. On the plus side was the air conditioning which was good, we did not freeze as we normally do, our co-passengers were decent people (i.e. did not start drinking as soon as the train took off), and, well nothing seriously untoward happened (like bumping into another train, dacoits, etc).

We arrived at Nagpur right on time despite starting almost an hour behind schedule. How? At Nagpur I found no board indicating that it was Nagpur, not one. That is if one does not count the board of the Police Station, Nagpur or something like that on the platform. We assumed that it must be Nagpur, again using our experience as railway travellers (wonder how any new comer would make out that its the Nagpur station - the one clear board was outside the station!).

Anyway, we hopped off. Here we come Nagpur, where we'll stay for the next few days!    

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Search for excellence - Sania Mirza's power shift

I have decided that starting today I shall look out for signs of excellence (herosim, success, happiness, purpose of life and other such descriptions of excellence) in the world around me. Yesterdays blog about Parleen Gill being the first of its kind ofcourse.
Todays big story to me is the change in young Sania Mirza's course in the Stanford Classic tennis tournament. It is a subtle shift in her mind when she says that she was determined "to hang in there and I did" as she beat Sybille Bammer - and more importantly, a nagging doubt in her own mind. It is a new state of mind for Sania to "hang in there" and knowing that she could do it. And Sania, if you can do it once, you can do it again, and again, and with the best. You have just crossed the biggest limitation of "can I?". Now you know you can. And you will.
I always felt that if Sania could recognise her strength, could get the picture right in her mind, she has atleast one Grand Slam, if not more, depending on how hungry she is.
This is an acknowledgment of her progress in her search for excellence. This is an acknowledgment of a major shift in her career.
And a lesson to all of us. "To hang in there." Because when you really really do, you will!
Good luck to you all!
Congrats Sania. Go get it girl. We are with you - always.

Parleen Gill, Indian Idol and the Mahabharata

Was watching the elimination round of the Indian Idol yesterday and was enthralled by the intense drama. Parleen Gill - handsome, young - and most importantly, the one word that comes to my mind as I watched the reactions all around - noble. Co-contestants cried inconsolably as the young man held himself bravely - holding his pain within, as if by doing so it would lessen theirs. Grown men sobbed, girls had tears streaming down their faces and every soul that acknowledged the fall of a noble soul, had moist eyes.
I am certain that some of the contestants, if not all, had a fleeting thought in their minds that they would have willingly traded places, that if this was what competition was, then they did not want to be a part of it. Seasoned judges like Alisha and Anu Malik cried unabashedly. The composed and cool Mini Mathur broke down completely towards the end. And it was only when he could hold his pain no more - when it was obvious that despite all that he tried to, in vain- did the brave and worthy lad break down, last in the line.
I do not know Parleen. But what I saw was enough for me to know that here was someone who commanded respect and admiration from friend and foe alike. As he sang his farewell song, every word dripping with the pain of separation, every moment growing bigger with the sadness of a reality that was slowly sinking in, yet holding himself because as a true performer he knows that the "show must go on", there was one moment when the camera caught what was a defining moment - something I could watch over and over again - the young boy closing his eyes tight as if to hold his pain in as he paused before a stanza before singing powerfully on...
Javed Akhthar knew what he was saying when he said that Parleen would find success and this was no defeat. I would like to believe in that too. Not because I am some crazed hysterical fan of his (on merit he would have been on my botom two) but because I believe that a noble soul will get his or her due. Parleen knows he is not the best of the singers left in the competition but everyone knows that he had the heart to come out and hold his own against the sheer class of someone like Amit Paul in the past few episodes. And to do that consistently as the competition intensified, to push his boundaries far out byond known borders each time, needs great courage and self belief - and a big heart always wins in my book and I am sure in many others as well.
For all the heroics of the Pandavas, Karna remains the true hero of the Mahabharata to me. The moment when Karna is taken out of the equation by Arjuna, when he is unarmed and his chariot wheel is stuck in mud, is a moment when the warfields of Kurukshetra go dark - when a deathly silence sweeps across the fields, the worlds, and the hearts of all those who hear the story. It is the same feeling - the exit of a noble soul.
To me Parleen Gill walked off not in defeat certainly. No. Because I don't think even the eventual winner would be able to generate that kind of a drama in the final. To me it would be difficult for any other moment to match this episode as the high point of this version of Indian Idol. I'd like to be proven wrong because that would indicate the presence of another worthy in the ranks and I'd like to see more of them.
The world needs more such.
For now, good for you Parleen and good luck. I would, and I think anyone would, trade an exit like that for even a win in the final.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tinglish (aka Telugu English)

Nothing tingles my spine quite like Tinglish said an unknown Tinglish writer whose greatness went unappreciated during his time. After Minglish (Marathi English), Kinglish (Kannada English), Oinglish' (Oriya English), Mallinglish (Malayalee English) and so many other versions of the language, it is only fair that Tinglish gets its due from the Tinglish reading masses all over the world. Tinglish is a vibrant and alive language and I am shoor, used widely all over the world from the North pole down to the South Pole, what with our fellow Telugu's enterprise (or Telugu fellow if you please). Go to the Arctic pole and you are shoor to find a Telugu speaking gentleman shyly smiling at you. Go to Timbuctoo and our man is likely to be in the telephone booth calling home. With such a huge and widely spread market I am naturally very upbeat about the success of 'Tinglish’.
When confronted with the idea that Tinglish ought to take its place in the Sun my friendly neighbour Mr Murthy, a Tinglish exponent if ever there was one, stuck out his tongue and said 'yeaa' in a very Telugu gesture symbolising what he said later. "Yeamundi saar, I mean, what is there saar. It is all Gaad’s grace," and he looked up skyward as if he were looking into Gaad's own face. His demeanour got me wondering if this guy was not interested in what I was talking about or if he were plainly not comprehending my drift.
Overcoming a familiar feeling when I am near fellow Telugu's, I told him that it is a great thing for Telugus to be known for their version of English and that he ought to show a bit more enthusiasm. A flustered Mishter Murthy came back strongly " Shoor; shoor, from my side I will do yaverything paasibal. It will be a sooper success," he assured my shyly. "Yin fact Telugu was proclaimed to be the sweetest language in the yentire worald by our great king Sri Krishnadevaraya, eye thinku," said he compelled to convince me of his enthusiasm for the project. "Desa bhashalandu Telugu lessa" he said grandly. Less of the lessa stuff I warned, we are into Tinglish not Telugu!
"You are correct andi," said he smiling shyly at having his grand speech put out of syllabus. "Whatever yit maybe, I yaam with you saar ," he assured. I confided to him about the crying need of the hour. "What we now was to identify some young Tinglish authors so we can get some interesting works published right away."
"Yes, yes," mused Mr. Murthy deep in thought and concluded his agreement with an explosive "Yaa." I knew that he was getting the hang of it now. "Mai daaters yinglishu maarks are yexcellent," confided Mr Murthy,"you musht see her works andi."
Was she a literature student I asked. 'Litrachar?!! no, no. Xth pyass," said he proudly and added 'firssht class."
I gingerly put forward the proposal that however precocious Ms Murthy was, we needed someone who was better qualified and probably with a little experience to put up a good show of Tinglish in the world of literature. Mr.Murthy appeared offended at my insensitivity and audacity at doubting Ms.Murthy's capabilities and said "Affcourse, misshter, Wuy will get a specilallisht only then. My cousin brother writes scripts for films," he thundered looking at me challengingly. The sight of Mr Murthy in anger got me quite worried because so far I have only seen the docile side of him yet. I meekly agreed not wanting to offend this unpredictable man any more. "That boy will come up like yanything I say," said he emphatically at having beaten me into submission. " You mussht meet him persona1ly. I told him that it would be nice indeed to meet the future king of Tinglish. The latest fillim Naa abbaku nee debba was written by our Bujjigadu," said he. I assumed that Bujjigadu was the writer in question but was not too sure anymore after hearing tbe title.
"Oh, what sooper dyelaags saar. Total double meanings, oh hoho," raved Mr Murthy. Maybe this was what the Tinglish public needed, I thought. If one could attract the sensitive intelligent Telugu movie fan, then this man was what Tinglish needed to give it a major boost.
I asked Mr Murthy what Bujjigadu's qualification was. " Arre, he is an Engineer andi and second year discontinued. Brilliant boy saar, throughout his career aalways firssht class firssht." Did he repeat his first class throughout I wondered. Why did he not complete the job I asked. 'Trazedy happened saar. His lover's father was againesht his myarriazee." Bujjigaadu apparently got his twisted and hurt soul to churn out these double meanings after such a tragic end to his wedding plans. I probed no further. "Please have your coffee andi, Hari gaaru," insisted Mr Murthy warming up and moving closer all the time I did. "By the by," asked Mr Murthy casually, "How much yamount you will give yaz advance." I looked at this chameleonesque Mr Murthy and decided that may be I could try Tinglish and save myself some trouble.
"Mishtar Murthy garu, eye think thattu, eye will only write my naaval. Talking with yoo has been very enlightening. Eye yam shoor that my naaval will make me rich like yanything. I can yeven think of giving you a free autographed copy eye say," I retorted. Mr Murthy looked on at me dumbstruck. I wafted away watching his face take upon a betrayed look as if I had stolen his birthright. Now to get a copy right before he does.