Gauri Lankesh’s unfulfilled Kashmir dream

September 19, 2017 at 9:15 AMSep (Activism, Friends, Literature, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

One night in April 2017, my phone rang. It was the middle of the night and my heart skipped a beat when the phone rang at that ungodly hour but on seeing Gauri Lankesh’s name flashed across the screen, I settled down. Gauri was the one who always burned the midnight oil and I knew it wasn’t odd for her to call me at this hour.

“Thank you so much,” Captain blurted out when I answered the call. Her voice was filled with immense gratitude. I wondered why she was thanking me while she continued, “I just finished reading Curfewed Night. Thanks for recommending it,” she said and added, “It is so sad that I hadn’t read this book for so long.”

Captain then went on to tell me how the work of her weekly Gauri Lankesh Patrike, her activism and the cases against her – a strategy of her opponents to exhaust and harass her – leave her with very less time to read good books. She told me that she had taken an oath to read at least three books a month. When I heard about her oath, I suggested she read Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora? in the month of May. By the end of May, she had read the book.

It all began on the 9th of October when Captain was in Udupi, close to my home town Manipal, for the historical Chalo Udupi rally. I had just returned home after a brief but intense visit to Kashmir. So when Captain and I met at the rally she insisted I be with her and share with her my Kashmir experience.

That noon, when we were finishing lunch, Captain asked me if I would be ready to go to Kashmir with Shivasunder (another comrade of ours) to do a series of reports for her weekly. I immediately agreed.

That noon Captain told me how she has been trying to argue from over a decade about Jagmohan being the orchestrator of the Pandit exodus but nobody cares to listen. She also told me about her one interview with Syed Ali Geelani. When I told her about the people displaced from the other side of Kashmir living in Jammu she honestly said, “I did not know about this,” and added, “Actually, neither the state nor the media wants us to know.”

Gauri was willing to listen to what the state and the media did not want us to listen and she was willing to speak that which the state and the media did not want us to speak.

Since that day in October 2016 the conversation between me and Captain was majorly about Kashmir.

After some weeks when I reminded her about the plan Captain said, “Shivasunder seems to have other commitments. We both can go together.”

I did not hear from Captain about our Kashmir visit plan for the next few months and I started doubting if it was ever going to happen. Though I never doubted her concern about Kashmir and her longing to give her readers a true picture of Kashmir, I was becoming quite impatient because of the delay.

Later when Captain called me in April 2017 saying she had read Basharat Peer’s book and followed it up with reading the spine chilling book on Kunan Poshpora, I knew the plan was still on. By then I had learnt from a common friend and a senior activist that demonetization had hit the circulation of Captain’s weekly and she was in a financial crunch. The information made me realize why the Kashmir plan was not materializing and I stopped asking her about it.

Captain herself spoke of the financial crunch when in August 2017 she called me to say how a particular article by someone in Kashmir thrilled her and how badly she wanted to meet the writer. When I said, “We can meet the author when we go there,” Captain, who by then had taken loans to run her weekly, explained the economic crunch and said, “Let me recover a bit and then we can go.”

Now Captain is no more with us and I fear with her unfortunate killing – the weekly also will breathe its last. After this calamity, I am afraid that neither the visit to Kashmir nor reporting on Kashmir for the readers of weekly will ever happen.

On that April night when Captain called to tell me she had read Curfewed Night she had asked me if I could translate the book and assured me that she will publish it. I told her that during my interaction with the author Basharat Peer I had asked him if I could do the translation and he had verbally permitted me to do so. She took his email address from me saying, “Then let me write to him as a publisher and avail rights for publishing the translation.” I don’t know if she ever wrote to Basharat Peer. But this too, like our Kashmir visit and writing about Kashmir for the readers of her weekly, remains unfulfilled.

I recollect these interactions, our jointly made but unfulfilled plans while writing this because I believe I am bound by responsibility for letting the friends from Kashmir know that Captain, who stood in solidarity with every struggle across the globe, of the right against the might, understood the struggle of occupied Kashmiris and also longed to meet them and hear their stories and chronicle them for Kannada readers.

I am writing this story of Captain and our plan of Kashmir also because it speaks of how a person is perpetually chained at various levels by the order of things from fighting the system and yet how some determined people like Captain were continuously making efforts to make the world stand on its legs and change this order of things.

(Originally published in Wande Magazine on 11 Sep 2017)

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Clips of the Same Chain

September 18, 2017 at 9:15 AMSep (Activism, Cinema, Friends, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

The board outside the Main Theater (MT) at my Alma mater Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) serves the purpose of announcing the daily screening at MT and National Film Archives of India, which is associated to the Institute. On happy occasions like some alumni winning a prestigious award or on sad occasion of some alumni’s demise the board speaks of it.

Few days ago the board carried the name of Gauri Lankesh. The announcement said a condolence meeting was being held at the Wisdom Tree that evening.

Under that very tree around 4 years ago we had gathered to pay tribute to Narendra Dabholkar, who was murdered just a couple of kilometers away from the campus.

A day after Dabholkar’s murder when some members of the Akhila Bharateeya Vidyarthi Parishad attacked Kabir Kala Manch members and students of FTII, I had got a call from Gauri, who I fondly called Captain, asking for details. She had expressed her solidarity with all her heart.

Later when FTII went on strike against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan by the new Government at the center, Captain had spoken to me a couple of times regarding the same with great concern.

It was during the same time that M.M. Kalburgi was murdered in Dharwad and Captain was one of the leading voices to protest against this and demand justice. She drew connection between all these incidents.

Now I see in photographs  Captain’s name in that very campus and on that board.

I recollect all these because all these incidents scattered over time and spaces are all, as I see, clips of the same chain.

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All Has Turned Red: Remembering Gauri Lankesh

September 12, 2017 at 9:15 AMSep (Activism, Friends, Media, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

It was the monsoon of 2004. Handful of journalists had entered the ‘naxal infested forest’ in Karnataka to meet the Naxalites and do ground reporting after being invited for a meeting as such by the then leader. Gauri Lankesh was one among the few journalists from different media houses.

In the following issue of Lankesh Patrike (she had not yet started her own weekly then) in her editorial and report Gauri spoke of Comrade Prem, who was spearheading the naxalite movement in Karnataka, being her senior in college years before he moved into armed rebellion. Gauri had interviewed him and in her editorial (kempaadavo ella kempaadavo | All has turned red ) quoted a poem by Comrade Prem. A poem penned in 1995, where Prem is responding to the judicial murder of the human rights activist of Nigeria- Ken Saro Viwa saying, “It was a lesson you learned too late. Your pen playwright should have been backed by the gun alright?”

Ken who was fighting for the Ogoni tribe and against the multi-national Shell oil company was hanged to death by the the then Nigerian regime.

The lines of Comrade Prem sounded so convincing to me back then when I was a naive teenager.

But then in 2005 when Comrade Prem was hunted and gunned by the star machinery I was shocked to learn that Comrade Prem was Saket Rajan, an author of two volumes of Karnataka History titled Making History and also a gold medalist from IIMC, Delhi.

Those days when the Naxalite movement of Karnataka and especially Saket Rajan was being discussed by the media and public, I kept recollecting his poem fondly and juxtaposed it with what I read in newspapers: Saket Rajan being killed in an encounter and how next to his body was a gun that he was carrying. I told myself that Saket Rajan was proven wrong by history.

So when Gauri initiated and toiled to bring naxalites to mainstream years later in Karnataka, I was not just proud of her I also did express my solidarity with her.

Now in 2017 after seeing Gauri being killed I wonder what is Saket going to tell her if at all there is an afterlife and if the two good old friends are to meet in a world beyond this world? Will he say what he had told Ken Saro Viwa: “it was a lesson you learned too late. Your pen should have been backed by the gun alright!”?? To be honest, I dont know what he would say, what Gauri would respond to it and to begin with I dont even know if there is an afterlife or not. But I know for sure that those who sweat and toil to make the world stand on its legs will be crushed and smashed by the state by the system and it doesn’t matter if they are backed by the gun or not!

But then when Ken’s murder did not stop or silence Saket and Saket’s murder did not stop or silence Gauri, we shouldn’t be stopped or silenced by the murder of Gauri. Because with or without the gun what all these three fighters, rebels forming a diverse yet connected and continuous history are propagating through their lives is to keep fighting and keep speaking to make the world stand on its legs.

Numbed by the murder of a comrade of concern and an understanding friend, trying to digest the fact that she is no more physically, I recollect a line of Pablo Neruda: “True life is without silence. Only death remains dumb” from his poem titled Communication from the collection Isla Negra. I also recollect a graffiti that I used to cross every day during my days at JNU. The graffiti read: “Let life be dead, but death must not be allowed to live,” a quote attributed to Karl Marx.

People like Gauri are not silent even in their death and even in death they fight death and ensure death will not be allowed to live.

(Originally published in Kashmir Times dated 12 September 2017)

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Everything Okay?

August 10, 2017 at 9:15 AMAug (Friends, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Over a year ago, I cant remember when exactly, during one more phase of severe depression the sense of heaviness inside was so unbearable that I started contemplating suicide.

As much as I have always, during such phases, wanted to kill myself I have also had the desire to taste life in its all colours and shades at the same time, making me struggle between the urge to die and the longing to live. Such conflicts have, many a times, pushed me away from suicidal thoughts as and when the desire to taste life once, at least, before calling it quits, gained that one extra point to tilt the balance on its side.

But this time the extra point went on the side of the urge to die and the urge became quite strong.

Nearly a decade ago when I seriously attempted to kill myself and failed at it, the whole experience of having to face the world, especially parents, was so horrible that this time I couldn’t afford to fail.

Death is never a problem, dying is. People who do not understand that state of mind where the urge to die is battling against the fear of dying or call it the process of it, might dismiss that urge as an attention seeking performance but that battle of urge to die versus fear of dying is real.

So, I started to search for a way to die that was less painful, cursing myself for having learnt how to swim. I googled and googled and only found answers of all kind contradicting each other. I had just started, some months ago, using Tumblr and I thought I possibly could find some ways there.

After I spent a while there on Tumblr with all combination of words to search for a proper answer, Tumblr paused and a card appeared on the screen, generated by Tumblr, which read, “Everything Okay?” in bold alphabets.

I read it and just broke down as if I was waiting to someone ask me that. I wept till I felt a bit light inside me again. I felt very tired after that and I cant well remember if I went to sleep or just took a bath or just lied down there staring at the patterns created by the ceiling fan. But I remember having taken a screenshot of that text and having saved it under the name, “at least someone asked.”

Later on weeks after that evening it occurred to me that just a gesture of genuine concern and affection, at times, can save a life or rather, to avoid glorification of the idea of life and living, can avert a suicide, which undoubtedly is an unfortunate thing to happen no matter who it is, where it is, how it is, when it, why it is.

I also realized that at times the state of mind is so horrible that an auto-generated message can touch you because you are craving for such a touch.

Remembered all of this when a friend called on an evening recently and after telling me she has been feeling suicidal from some days, asked how I would kill myself if I were to arrive at that state of mind again.

After a long conversation that evening followed by a long anxious night, the next morning I made sure I sent a text where I asked after wishing her a good morning , “Are you okay now?” for I have always tried not to forget those two words from Chinese philosophy; Chung and Shu which mean, “Dont do it to others which you dont like if done to you” and “Do it to others what you like if done to you.”

PS: My friend is fine, as of now, and so am I.

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Dil Sau-Sau Ka Chutta Hai…

July 27, 2017 at 9:15 AMJul (Cinema, Friends, Music, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy, Uncategorized)

After watching Jagga Jasoos I kept humming the song Dil Ullu Ka Patta Hai, probably the only thing I carried back from the hall. I couldnt help but keep admiring the brilliance of Amitabh Bhatttacharya. I was particularly stuck with the line, “dil sau-sau ka chuTTa hai.” I messaged some friends about this line in particular and also how much I admire Amitabh Bhattacharya for his lines like this and how I feel deeply that he understands the characters and their emotions better than the director themselves.

Later when I fell asleep I had a special guest in my dream. No it wasnt Amitabh Bhattacharya. It was Gulzar.

I woke up wondering how Gulzar had come into my dream when I had gone to sleep thinking about and admiring Amitabh Bhattacharya!

Probably my love for Gulzar started feeling insecure after witnessing my high appreciation and admiration for Amitabh Bhattacharya, especially because this time the heart was declaring that it comes and goes like a change of hundred rupees!

Love is independent with its own desires and insecurities, beyond us, though a part of us. Isnt it?

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Does she still listen to Begum Akhtar?

July 11, 2017 at 9:15 PMJul (Friends, Literature, Music, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

“You take her name like you own it,” said my friend when I took a particular name while recollecting an episode from my life, because the on going conversation reminded me of the same.

I laughed in response because that is all I could do.

I don’t know if I own the name, but I know that the name, as it means to me, and the person, as I know her, belong to me alone. I say this at the risk of sounding possessive and claiming ownership. But when you know that you have lived through a stage of life with someone in a very subliminal way, in words, beyond words, distant from the five sense which made you realize that there are dimensions to life beyond them, you realize that the person who you met in this parallel universe of emotion is someone to whom you and only you had access to.

That person in the parallel universe of interwoven feelings, is not the same person the world knows. Nor are you the same person the world knows in that parallel universe of interwoven feelings and that ‘you’ were accessible only to that one person and that ‘you’ belongs to that person alone.

Some stages of life are so beautiful that neither life nor history can bear their beauty…

On evenings like this when it is raining both outside and inside, I wrap myself in memories and wonder if she still listens to Begum Akhtar.

woh jo hum mein tum mein karaar tha tumhein yaad ho ke na yaad ho

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Creative Coincidental Kinship~ 4

June 21, 2017 at 9:15 AMJun (Friends, Literature, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Around one and half years ago (March 2016) I received a message from my mursheed Rahamat Tarikere saying one Basavaraj Puranik is trying to contact me and asking me to call Mr. Basavaraj Puranik. The ignorant me called Rahamat Sir immediately to ask who Basavaraj Puranik is and why he was trying to get in touch with me. “He is a translator who translates from Urdu and English and also has authored a book on Allamaprabhu titled ‘anupama charita Allama deva’. He is a great admirer of your writings. It seems he wants to talk to you. Please call and talk to him.” I felt good about someone being an admirer of my insignificant writings. Probably the joy got a bit more than joy which made me wonder why should I call someone if that someone wants to talk to me. But without raising that question, I told Rahamat Sir that I would call Basavaraj Puranik because of the respect I have for Rahamat Sir.

When I dialled the number of Basavaraj Puranik, which I had got from Rahamat Sir, a lady picked up the call and for a moment I wondered if I had dialed the wrong number. Since it felt awkward to cut the call after a female voice said, “hello,” I uttered the number I had dialed and asked if the cal had connected to the same number. When the lady confirmed that it was the same number I said I was asked by Basaravaraj Puranik to call. “One minute,” said the lady suggesting I wait for the phone to be handed over to Basavaraj Puranik. I waited for Basavaraj Puranik to call thinking how such waiting over the phone call had become a rare phenomenon. Within a minute Basavaraj Purani’s voice came from the other side. A slightly frail voice saying, “Hello” made me realize what, in the message sent by Rahamat Sir, the digit 82 within bracket next to the name of Basavaraj Puranik meant! The man was 82 years old and suddenly I realized why Rahamat Sir had insisted that I call him instead of giving Mr. Puranik my number. I was suddenly overwhelmed and humbled.

“Sir, I am Samvartha. I was asked by Rahamat Sir…” I had not completed introducing myself when Basavaraj Puranik from the other side started speaking. “How much I have been searching for you! From over six months now I have been on the hunt for you. Whoever I ask kept telling me that you are from the coastal region, studied at the film institute Pune and are quite elusive, difficult to catch hold of. But I continued to ask for you and recently while revisiting Rahamat’s article on Urdu I saw your name being mentioned there. So I called him up and asked him to put me in touch with you,” said Basavaraj Puranik drawing a map of his search for me. I felt very embarrassed and also felt special. He mentioned that he had read some of my articles and translations and thanked me for the mention of Eduardo Galeano’s book ‘Children of the Days’ in a small write up for Avadhi. Recollecting how he pestered his son to get him a copy of the book, through online purchasing, and had read the book in one go Bsavaraj Puranik said, “While reading that book I understood you.” I was surprised. What did he understand I dint know. I asked him what is that he understood about me by reading Galeano’s book. “Let me try to understand myself through your understanding of me,” I said laughingly. Very notoriously Basavaraj Puranik said, “For that you will have to come meet me. I cant say all of it over the phone.” Inquiring how often I visit Bangalore and when is my next visit to Bangalore likely to be he said, “Please come home and meet me the next time you come to Bangalore.”

During our conversation that day Basavaraj Puranik made note of my e-mail id and later in the day wrote to me where he said, “Had you not written about Galeano’s book I would have been deprived of a beautiful experience. I thank you for this. I congratulate you for your engagement with books as this which erodes inertia. Please suggest more books of the same kind. I will try to read them and flower again.”

In the following days I shared some of my writings and translations with Basavaraj Puranik who affectionately wrote back to me giving a pat on my back and also giving useful suggestions and suggesting certain corrections. We had also exchanged some Urdu poetry with each other via mail. Iqbal, Ghalib etc..

After I came in contact with Basavaraj Puranik I made only one trip to Bangalore with specific work in hand. I couldnt meet Basavaraj during that visit and when I wrote to him apologizing for the same he wrote back saying, “Do meet me next time without fail.”

Yesterday (20 June 2017) evening when I was reading a text related to a work I am enegaged with I got a message from Rahamat Sir. It read; “A great admirer of your writing, a translator from Urdu Basavaraj Puranik is no more. Were you able to meet him?”

I have not read a single translation of Basavaraj Puranik not have I read any of his original writings. Forget reading his work I, for the longest time had not even heard his name leve alone being familiar with his works and his contributions. Yet he in his 80s searching for a young insignificant writer in his 30s for six months, thanking me for introducing him to Galeano, giving insightful feedback on my writings and translations and also insisting I meet him once… All of this sounds too surreal. But I am aware how art and literature can connect people across time and space. A man in his 80s met a young man in 30s through literature, our unrest and Urdu poetry in mystical ways.

Basavaraj Puranik a man who made me experience such a beautiful bonding, who made me feel special with his love and admiration, is no more and I feel a strange loss. I should, at least now, make an effort to read Basavaraj Puranik and understand him. But I have lost an opportunity to understand myself through the understanding of Basavaraj Puranik, with an intervention by Galeano, forever.

Thank you for your love, affection and appreciation Basavaraj Sir. I regret not having met you. Apologies.

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Personal Success Amidst Collective Failure

May 26, 2017 at 9:15 PMMay (Cinema, Media, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Adding nothing more to what we already know about Sachin, relying only on moments of thrills, from archival footage, with its straight-forward narrative of a life, James Erskine’s film Sachin: A Billion Dreams, in wanting to celebrate the legend makes us realize that Sachin, though a man who gave us many thrills, is just not worthy a story to be told, though certainly a series of statistics worth being documented.

During the interval of the film, I called a friend, unable to resist telling him that the film is like any 80s-90s decent Mumbai cinema focusing on an individual who respects elders, values family, finds his love, has a dream (World Cup here) which is personal and wants to achieve it for the country and works hard for the same day in and day out, with the support of a loving teacher (who says “if you save the kit the kit will save you” in the lines of ‘dharmo rakshati rakshitaha’), a sacrificing wife, a loving family and an unquestioning blind mass support, where every other person is just an ornament to highlight the magnitude of the individual in focus. Knowing the trajectory of the life, and hence the film, I knew in the second half of the film, like in any decent Mumbai cinema, the dream will be achieved with some minor struggles.

Video footage from family archives of Sachin Tendulkar spending time with his parents, siblings and his wife and children are few moments where we get to see what we haven’t earlier. Of course there is a moment when speaking of the match-fixing Sachin says, “I was asked why I am not speaking. How could I speak of something which I did not know of completely?” which answers his silence from those days but fails to satisfy. Other than these all we get to see and hear is what has already been spoken and seen of the man who became God to many in this country.

The days around the match-fixing controversy, Sachin says in the film, was the darkest phase of Indian cricket and the people had to be won back again. Immediately the film cuts to the India-Australia test series where A Sourav Ganguly lead Indian team with a historic Laxman-Dravid partnership made the impossible possible. This, Sachin says, made the country finally put behind all the bitterness of the past few years.

A similar “dark phase” reoccurs when India has to return to India from the World Cup very early because of the poor performance. “I contemplated retirement then,” says Sachin and adds, after recollecting Viv Richards calling him and asking him to stick on, that his brother reminding him of the next World Cup being played in India with final to happen in Mumbai made him look forward to 2011 World Cup.

What is to be noticed is that what brought Indian cricket team out of the “dark phase” was, in the first instance, a team led by Ganguly, and in the second instance, a team led by Dhoni, of which Sachin was a part. Even in the film which is designed to celebrate the legend, there are no hints of Sachin Tendulkar, the highest run scoring cricketer, having saved the Indian team’s face or dignity.

Even when speaking of his long career there are no references made to how Sachin Tendulkar made the Indian team succeed though it rightly says that for innumerable Indians hope sank when Sachin got out.

So, what makes Sachin Tendulkar a legend who, in the words of Virat Kohli, “carried the Indian team for 22 years” and for whom team India pledged to win the Word Cup in 2011?

The film gives no hints, no insights.

When Sachin claims to be “playing for country” and when the country declares that winning the world cup was for Sachin, how is one to understand the phenomenon called Sachin Tendulkar and make sense of the seemingly opposing views?

The film gives no hints, no insights.

The film hints at the poor performance of the team while Sachin was the only hope. The film hints at how the nation was starving for some good and banked its hope on cricket ad Sachin. Is Sachin Tendulkar a story of a personal success amidst collective failure? The film leaves us with this question, without intending to.

Similarly in the film Sachin: A Billion Dreams the cricketer Sachin manages to win even when the film fails.

While watching the film Sachin: A Billion Dreams I was constantly reminded of two documentaries Steven Riley’s Fire in Babylon (for cricket) and Nasreen Munni Kabir’s two part documentary on Shahrukh Khan (for humble background to legend story with similar family touch).

Fire in Babylon tells the story of West Indies cricket team observing the phenomenon not just as a triumph of the underdogs but also as a story of a team making their game an anti-colonial statement. The humiliation faced by the West Indies team and their grit to beat the master in the masters’ game is no less of a thriller. But the story of Sachin is not a story of neither an underdog nor a battle against a force which is larger than human, though, I stress again, its a series of statistics worth documenting.

Nasreen Munni Kabir’s documentaries The Inner World of Shahrukh Khan and The Outer World of Shahrukh Khan explores the human side of Shahrukh Khan who, like Sachin is attached to family, focuses on work etc. But what makes the two part documentary beautiful is that it makes Shahrukh come across as a human with all his vulnerabilities, his anxieties, his playfulness etc. Though the film on Sachin speaks of the playfulness of Sachin during his childhood, speaks of his health issues, fails to make the same impact as Nasreen Munni Kabir’s film does precisely because while Kabir’s attempt is to understand and explore the phenomenon called Shahrukh Khan, the film by James Erskine’s purpose is only to put Sachin on a pedestal and sing glory of the man, which makes the film a flat two dimensional narrative, giving no fresh insight to Sachin the man or Sachin the cricketer.

Why are India-Pakistan matches given an extra emphasis in the film? Why does the tension between Azhar and Sachin get underlined with a negative sounding BGM? why does Bora Majumdar makes reference to the insurgency in Kashmir saying “it was brave of a 16 year old boy to go to Pakistan then” while he was going to play cricket to face Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and not to the border to serve the army? They might be coincidental if we are to ignore the long portions of Sachin performing pooja, comparing cricket to temple going, embodying the values of an ideal son, husband and a citizen. All put together we see, let me say though I will be accused of stretching this argument too far, a portrayal of an aadarsh baalak which India fancies, for what it values are and what it doesn’t value. Also given the unquestioned acceptance of commercialization and justification of it saying, “Yes, money is important,” after saying “What mattered the most was country,” the film Sachin: A Billion Dreams is like a Sooraj Barjatya, JP Dutta, Karan Johar and Yash Raj films from the 90s, the era in which Sachin emerged.

The film has nothing to offer to cinema lovers or cricket lovers or even Sachin lovers, except for some nostalgia and moments of reliving thrills, which Sachin, we need to acknowledge, gave this country in abundance.

Impressive statistics doesn’t necessarily make an impressive story and inspiring statistics doesn’t necessarily make an inspiring story.

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Demise of a Man who Defeated Decay, Damage and Destruction

March 9, 2017 at 9:15 PMMar (Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Photo by Yajna

Last year around the same time in the month of March I last visited the Heritage Village in Manipal. The space was almost set to open itself for public viewing and despite his weak health the visionary Vijayanath Shenoy, a connoisseur of music, arts and theater, whose brain-child Heritage Village is, was seated there amidst the structures which were a witness to history. Heritage Village was a dream unfold on that soil for Mr. Shenoy and he would descend there everyday to see his dream world being grounded on earth.

Spread on the land next to the lake from which the town of Manipal derives its name, the Heritage Village envisioned by Vijayanath Shenoy is a museum of its own kind where traditional structures of the bygone eras stand to speak of history. Each structure saved from decaying in its place of origin and resurrected in Heritage Village hold within themselves stories of their times. Apart from the houses of the feudals, the brahmins, the Deccani nawabs, the spaces of Basel Mission along with shrines of bhootas and nagas, the Heritage Village also house the original paintings of Thanjavur and those by Raja Ravi Verma.

The seed form Heritage Village was Hasta-Shilpa which Mr. Shenoy had originally built for his own stay. Within two years of its construction in a traditional way he walked out of the house and turned it into a museum. As a child I was taken to Hasta-Shilpa more than once by my father. Though I understood nothing much those days with time upon reflection I realized that everything in a house, like the pillars, the roof, the plates, the doors, the chairs, hold within themselves stories and history, about which Mr. Shenoy would speak passionately to every visitor. By the time this realization dawned upon me Hasta-Shilpa had closed its doors to visitors. Soon the idea and dream of Hasta-Shilpa began to flower in a larger and grander way next to the lake which is a bit distant from where Hasta-Shilpa stands, by the name Heritage Village.

For long Heritage Village was not open for public. But we all heard that Mr. Shenoy would allow artists, journalists and researchers have a look at the Heritage Village which was still under construction. Those days I also heard, from a person who used to teach me back then, about the eccentric nature of Mr. Shenoy and his temper issues. But later through the contact of the same teacher who by then was my colleague, I made quite a few visits to the Heritage Village in the pretext of taking the resource persons who visited our Institute to the Heritage Village. During those visits I witnessed the eccentricities of Mr. Shenoy who would be angered if one looked at the Heritage Village like watching a museum or saw it with the eyes of a tourist. He demanded deeper engagement with love and respect valuing it the way he did. His anger, I realized then, was just a reflection of his passion and his love for what he was doing. It was a labout of love and he had sweated blood for it. He would throw out people from the Heritage Village if one took out their camera while touring the village. The experience of it, he believed, should be lived and recorded through engagement and not through recording.

Things had changed a bit during my last visit to the Heritage Village which was made possible by my friend Srajana, a curator herself, who had grown close to Mr. Shenoy. The man who envisioned the place was not healthy enough to take the visitors around. That made cameras come out here and there. That day a journalist from Bangalore was also visiting the Heritage Village and at the end of her visit requested Mr. Shenoy to pose for a photograph with her. A man who was accompanying her clicked a photo as Mr. Shenoy got up from his chair posed for the photo. The photo captured only their silhouette since Mr. Shenoy and the journalist had their backs to the sun. Having a look at the photo in the camera the journalist saoid, “Because of the sun behind us the photo hasnt come well,” and asked, “Can we move a bit to the other side for the photograph?” Mr. Shenoy whose movements were not easily possible asked, “Cant we move the sun to the other side?” and laughed as he stepped to the other side with the help of the journalist and posed for a photo.

The man who moved the neglected decaying but valuable materials from distances to Manipal, restored them and thus saved them from decaying when playfully spoke of moving sun from one place to another I was amazed to see a lighter side of the man and also wondered if he had, after all these years of rigorous work, come to believe that he could move anything from anywhere and plant it where he wanted. People who have known him wouldn’t be surprised he actually made the sun move according to his need driven by his maddening love and passion.

He whose life was to save things from decay, damage, destruction has been grabbed by death today. But he will continue to live among those structures and the history within them, which he did not let die.

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Creative Coincidental Kinship ~ 2

February 28, 2017 at 9:15 PMFeb (Friends, Literature, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

The day S. Diwakar gifted me his copy of Nazim Hikmet’s book my evening was spent along with Diwakar Sir and a very fine critic and writer Narendra Pai.

The conversation between Diwakar Sir and Narendra Pai, with me as an active listener, went for long without us realizing the time. On seeing darkness having settled outside the window Naredra Pai sir got up to leave. Diwakar sir, at that point, said, “Lets have a cup of coffee before we disperse.” We decided to have a cup of coffee near the bus stop so that Narendra Pai sir could catch the bus then and there. Since I had my scooter, I drove to the bus stop while Diwakar Sir and Narendra Pai came walking. By the time the two reached the bus stop Narednra Pai had changed his mind. He said having coffee would actually get him late and caught the bus immediately.

Soon after he caught the bus Diwakar sir lit a smoke and as we continued conversing I got a call from my father asking me to come pick him up. While I was taking leave Diwakar Sir said, “At least we could have had a cup of coffee together.” Even I felt the same but I had to leave as my father was waiting for me. I left having assured Diwakar Sir that I will join him for breakfast the next morning.

Coming home that evening I wrote a blog-post about the creative coincidental kinship between Nazim Hikmet-Ramachandra Sharma-YNK-Satyajit Ray-Diwakar-Samvartha and also Nazim Hikmet- Faiz- Chittoprasad- Samvartha- Srajana- Diwakar.

Next morning I woke up relatively early and left home to meet Diwakar Sir. While I was on my way my phone rang and I stopped my scooter to see who it is. It was my mentor K.P. Rao who was calling.

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“Hello Sir.”

“Hello Samvartha. I saw your write up. Is Diwakar still in Manipal?”

“Yes Sir. I am on my way to meet him. If you want to come I will come pick you up.”

“You know, I follow the rules and dont break them.”

“Do not worry Sir. I have an extra helmet.”

“Then come home to pick me up.”

I turned my scooter and drove towards KP Rao’s house. Getting on the scooter KP Rao said, “I felt very happy reading your post. In fact Satyajit Ray stayed very close to my boss in Kolkata. He would wave at us whenever he came to his balcony,” and after a while added, “The beauty of YNK and his gang of people is that they have the entire world on their table.”

In a while KP Rao and I reached the International hostel where Diwakar Sir was put up. When we reached the 15th floor and rang the calling bell of room number 1525, Diwakar Sir opened the door. When KP Rao introduced himself to Diwakar sir who immediately recognized him and saying, “You taught Kannada to computers, isnt it?” welcomed us into the room.

For the next one hour the conversation between the two moved from Panini to Arya to Chomsky to Satyajit Ray to Homi Bhabha to DD Kosambi to Vedas to Sanskrit listening to which my jaws dropped.

The conversation was abruptly cut when there was a knock on the door. It was the driver of the vehicle which was to take Diwakar sir to the air-port. He had come to inform Diwakar sir that the vehicle will leave soon. We immediately left the room and took the lift from the 15th floor to the ground floor only to see that the co-passengers of Diwakar had not yet arrived. We seated ourselves on a couch there in the lobby and the two continued their conversation invoking the lives and works of KK Hebbar, memories of the first all India cartoonist meet and also discussed the tulu paaDdana. After a while the co-passengers of Diwakar sir arrived and so KP Rao and I took leave from Diwakar sir.

During the conversation in the room KP Rao while remembering his teacher DD Kosambi had recollected what was told once to him by the master. “Kosambi would say that if you are not interested in everything then you are not interested in anything.” That sentence kept ringing in my mind when KP Rao and I walked out of the hostel taking leave from Diwakar Sir because the two, I realized listening to their conversation, are literally interested in everything under the sun and above the sun.

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If you look at it closely you realize that everything in the world is interconnected. KP Rao says to make computer learn Kannada what came handy was not just his knowledge of technology but also his interest in linguistics and his reading of vedas. That reminds of what the Kannada poet Pu.Ti.Na. says; ‘ee jagadoLu posadaavudu peLiri joDaNe horatu?’ (what is new in this world, everything is an extension, a continuation, an addition.) Everything is connected and hence if you are interested in something then it leads you to everything.

Yes, everything is connected that is how the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, a non-residential Indian Kannada poet Ramachandra Sharma, YNK, Diwakar get connected with Samvartha after 50 years. Yes, everything is connected that is how when Samvartha is on his way to meet Diwakar gets a call from KP Rao and he becomes a witness to the memorable meeting between the two giants! Yes, everything is connected and that is how creative coincidental kinships are formed.

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