Wednesday, April 23, 2008

make no mistake

It's summer...

unheralded anniversaries

Ha ha - now that's a fantasy picture....

So this blog turned a year many days ago and I didn't even notice. Which is a good thing.

When I started it I needed a way to show friends pictures of this unbelievably beautiful place I was in and it seemed effective. I was taking a break after many years of working and a period of difficulty and I also needed something to do which was meditative, somewhat creative but totally purposeless. Totally purposeless in my case presents a huge problem, since I have purposeful personality disorder.

I am the sort who loves to make To Do lists and go tick tick tick. I go through phases of extreme backlog and burn out when I can' t do much which stresses me, depresses me and instantly makes me imagine myself old, unemployed and wearing a smelly nightie.

For a person who has despaired of changing this part of herself - workaholic, unable to say no, working hard and fast, manically interested in many different things at the same time (and wanting many different shots to be taken simultaneously I can hear the saala camera friends muttering) and always producing something - this must be one of those baby steps for mankind things. For a year I've managed to make this blog totally meandering, rather unkempt, of no particular interest to anyone but my friends and even that only occasionally. It really has been/is a scrapbook I come to from time to time, for fun only, the way scrapbooks were in childhood. On occasion I've had to stop myself from writing about work things but on the whole, I've never felt inclined to be focused in anyway here. The free and easy ones might roll their eyes, but for the tortured diligents, this is how life is bhai.

I try to slow myself down when I write - there is no choice actually but to slow down and absorb oneself in the other world one writes of - but not being able to produce 5000 words a day (which moreover should not need rewriting) regularly casts me into despair and sense of failure. So, yes, whatever, get a grip girl, I agree.

Well I'm trying, but I am realistic.

In the rest of my life I will of course always strive to be on top of the To Do list (at least I have modest ambitions), so unhealthily long that I can only lose to it. But happy anniversary to my redeeming feature and my circumscribed spot of guilty leisure then. Late, but that's the point.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Chandamama door ke...

I do not have a coffee table.

But I have my first coffee table book and it is.......

Yes, Chandamama has brought out a 60th anniversary collector's edition and I wasted no time in getting it. Chandamama, Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, Flash Gordon, Target and Children's World - everytime we were transferred to a new place my dad would order these to be delivered by the newspaper wala. Being very young I couldn't quite keep track of which day was what so the coming of the comic was always a matter of great excitement and each page would be instantly relished in the lush hours of a Sunday morning while my parents slept late and the house was absolutely quiet.

My favourite was Vikram aur Betal (which the book unfortunately calls Vetal which is NOT how it was in the original!) - it seemed to prolong the pleasures of the Amar Chitra Kathas being a long detailed prose story, rather than a comic, and with its tantric type of illustration it sent a thrill of fear for me.

Always seemed to me King Vikram's uniform was a bit East India Company but these quibbles I will leave to the culture studies folks. After all unko bhi tho PhD karni hoti hai.

I don't doubt it will all seem totally retrograde now when I read it but just looking at those illustrations made strong feelings of nostalgia uncoil in my tummy and suddenly my ears began to echo with the sound of that song from the DD show....

Vikram (vikram, vikram)
Betal (betal, betal)
Vikram aur Betal...

And you can watch that here for the opening song

And for the glorious sight of Vikram and Betal wrestling while Betal laughs in a loop

(Man, I want that DVD)

Even watching it now I feel it has a compelling narrative power and at a cultural level it's rather interesting to watch the cast of the Ramayana just before their Ramayana corpulence and glory.
Especially the redoubtable glee with which Sajjan plays Betal

In the words of the director, Prem Sagar

Why Vikram Aur Betal was made ahead of Ramayan?
We did it as a test market product. We were given the 4 pm slot on Sundays. For a 3,500-year-old story, it was a real bad slot. But it was a popular programme and started a new trend of special effects.

(An era of special effects! But these are more tolerable than the Ramayan ones because people don't look beatific in tandem with flying arrows. Here it's more like decapitated bodies and flying demons. Good stuff.)

Complete interview here

I think I was quite grown up and still used to watch it rather avidly - after all what else did I have before there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

And in a 6 degrees of separation thing - the scriptwriter of the serial also wrote a biography of my grandfather (which is in Hindi so I haven't read it yet...)

More about Chandamama

Gawd, I'm growing older aren't I?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

new business opportunity

Maybe we can head back to Lakshadweep after all - Vidya could become a scuba diving instructor since she loved it so much.

And me, fashion victim that I am, I can sell THESE

Monday, April 7, 2008

Lakshadweep Log

It has taken me over a month to post Lakshadweep pics but that's what it's like living in the love of the common people...

So after the bluest lagoon, this was our second sight of Lakshadweep as we sat in a little wooden airport building, feeling a little like apprehended drug runners in Thailand.

I had two best friends in school- Charu who became a doctor and Vidya who became an engineer. I as you know grew up and took pictures to post on a blog. But it is to be pointed out that of the three only Charu remained in a state of gainful employment. And thus it was that we found ourselves in Lakshadweep where she was on a 3 month deputation from her government hospital.

After we landed in Agatti, we had to find a way to get to the helicopter that would take us to Kavaratti, the admin. capital where Charu was stationed. However we were paralysed by the way we sat in the wooden airport and a little nervous because everything there is so permission driven and language is something of a barrier. When we made some timid forays to look for the helicopter we were greeted by hectic cries of 'anaesthesia party, anaesthesia party' (Charu is an anaesthisiologist) and whisked away. Ah, proximity to power.

For those who don't know, helicopters just suddenly rise vertically so it's a bit shocking. And they're very noisy too. So I basically sat tight until we landed where it seemed about 50 people were waiting to receive us (4 times the number of people in the helicopter) of which Charu seemed the least enthusiastic.

Turned out it was not us, but the administrator who was in our helicopter they had come to meet. I had thought he was a local land shark or tuna smuggler but Vidya had seen his picture on the website so she knew. Turns out 50 people have to come greet him everytime as if he's the local raj-ah. The island has crores given for development but you wouldn't know it looking at the litter (relatively) around Kavaratti. Our man's mug is everywhere. Ah the proximity of power to corruption.

At the dak bungalow which hadn't the remotest colonial flair - just concreted compound and a flamboyant cook whose flamboyance was most seen in his use of chillies and then in his twirly mannerisms - Vidya and Charu spent several hours cutting all the fruit Charu had mangaoed (and Vidya had bought to industrial capacity) with religious fervour while I slept a lot.

But anyway. Eventually there was the sea. The sea so blue so clear so flat it was a fantasy. I've never seen anything so wonderful. We swam and swam. We stayed two nights at the tourist centre where cottages were right on the beach - here's the view from our verandah there.

We went on a glass bottomed boat so we could see the corals. A crazy guy who would knock on our bedroom door each morning took us. He wanted to do Charu a favour- she being a dignitary. He would bring us coconuts at 6 am and we would try not to murder him with them He insisted and insisted till we agreed. He took us over the lagoon and then onto the ocean at which point Charu and I began to feel mightily sick. Then he took us back and charged us more money than the commercial guys! But, here are the corals as seen from the glass bottomed boat.

At the tourist hut we went scuba diving whereupon I promptly had a panic attack and never went at first. Later the guide took me, all the way from shore, swimming slowly. I cannot describe it. There are no pictures naturally but it's like going into a whole other world, a fantasy world of vertical shoals of fish, smaller than your little finger, little flat dashes of irridescence, moving past you diagonally as one; purple and yellow fish shimmying past, black and electric blue fish burrowing into corals that are huge, white, yellow, grey; brain corals and corals that look like rosettes and the kind with the many arms and all around you the blue-green clearn sun inflected water. So amazingly beautiful On the other island we went to I snorkelled a little and saw more of this but not the same as being there in the same fluid moment. Some of the fishes we saw are here in the poster below.

Lak is almost completely Muslim and the amount of veiling is quite startling - although on returning I was told by people that this is a relatively recent phenomenon. Although people live in these big thatched houses along the beach and inhabit the water with abandon, you don't see some of the free and easy existence you associate with seaside dwellers. Although this is a surface impression. You also don't see as many women swimming and when you do - well you have to wear pants or salwar kameez. Swimsuits are a complete no-no. And sleeveless avoidable. Charu very boldly informed me that "i've begun to wear Capri pants." Well, given it was like Bombay in May I should bloody hope so.

This is how we were normally dressed for swimming






I did wonder about this one - was this a reference to the colour or to the state of being on an island?

Yes I am posed between the teeth of a.....
From Kavaratti Vidya and I headed for two days to Bangaram via Agatti, from where you have to take a boat on the beach.

On the way we saw sea turtles. These pictures aren't clear but it is an incredible sight.

Bangaram is among Lakshadweep's uninhabited islands - in the sense that there's no settlement here - but there's a resort. There's something particularly exciting about arriving at an island on a boat. For some time you are surrounded on all sides by a sea the colour of Chelpark ink. And then you begin to see a speck over the waves and the island appears and there's a primeval sense of discovery. You have to stop yourself from jumping (in case you fall over) and yelling Land Ahoy! (in case you look like a total git).

The resort is fantastic but we did not stay there, it being too expensive for us. Although if 16k a night for two (with food but not with recreations or drinks) is in your budget then it looks wonderful and you should. And someday if I am rich I sure will. Here's their dining room.

Instead Charu again used her exalted position to get us government positions. We managed to get it in a window - the governer of Delhi came right after us (we saw him at the airport while waiting for our flights out! I was just happy that he was going to have to use the same crappy loos as us. Or maybe there's a secret better loo somewhere). So it wasn't fancy but in the end it was the same beach - and this was the view from our verandah (man, I love verandahs).

The water was so clear you could be calf deep and still see your nailpaint. We had been told to say hullo to the cook here by the other cook and I implored that some effort be put into the food. So they gave us fish every day - caught from the sea. The main fish there is tuna, but there's also a sort of small snapper that they call "lagoon fish" which they eat. It's rather nice and if you go snorkelling you can see it swimming just under , small , silver with a black smudge.
It is hard to describe how beautiful it was. To be surrounded on all sides by water - it's a very small island - and trees. No cars, no autos. The incredible blue of the water. I've never felt so peaceful, so happy even. I read more on this island in a week than I have in 6 months. I read only for pleasure which I haven't done in years. I woke early and watched the sun rise. I went snorkeling. I lazed. It didn' t hurt that Bangaram, unlike the other islands, is the only one where liquor is available!

As you can see, sunrise does look a lot like sunset - but the colours are cooler, just a little different.

By the time we left, we were sated, but how I long to go back, sooner rather than later.

And I think I will. It's written in the sand :)