Thursday, November 30, 2006

I want to TALK to you....

The band Coldplay has a song in their album X&Y entitled "Talk." It is a fantastic song. I have hearing this song since the day it was released,mostly while driving to work. I made sure that Ra played this song again and again till each word of the song assimilated within me.

The song in nutshell point to the depth and profound presence of the soul in all humans regardless of how religious or secular they may seem. Why is it that the human beings can create music, think about climbing a ladder up to the sun, imagine something awesome, and ponder about the future? It's because we are rational souls with a heart beating within us, gifted to us by God, souls that ultimately desire to know and communicate.

I like Coldplay because in today’s musical environment, the band still stands out distinct. No de-tuned guitars, no hip-hop influences, and no screaming singers. The singer spends most of his time at the piano singing ballads, just that often he flips to a higher note. I guess the way they dress and present themselves, one would mistake the band for a bunch of rejects from the American Idol. But they’ve found a niche in today’s new rock world, something that most old-time alt-rock fans thought had disappeared. An art where texture, astuteness, delicate dynamics and gentle melodies still exist. No wonder people are calling Coldplay "the new U2". The song launches itself with some catchy guitar and drum movements before Chris Martin’s trademark vocals strut their usual stuff.

My best lines:
"oh, brother I can't get through
I’ve been trying hard to meet you
'cause I don't know what to do
oh,brother I can't believe it's true
I'm so scared about the future

My thoughts on "I’m so scared about the future": We will have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We will spend more, but will have less, we will buy more, but will enjoy less. We would have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We would have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment and reason, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine and discoveries, but less wellness and goodwill.

We would have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We would talk less and the connection factor would tumble, love would be too seldom, and hate too often.

We would have learned how to make a living, but not a life.We would have cleaned up the air but polluted the soul.We would have conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We would talk more, but read less. We would learn to rush, but not to wait. These would be the times of fast foods, take-away counters and slow digestion, so called big men but with small character, steep exponential profits and shallow relationships. These would be the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These would be days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throw away pompous morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It would be a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom.The credit card would rule over the cash.A time when technology could bring this blog to your mobiles anywhere, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete or shift+delete.

Lyrics Here...

Why ? Because ....

We long for more than what we can see, taste, touch, hear, and smell. We all know deep down there is much more than what meets the eye, our gut tells us this and so does our reason, when we think clearly. This is why buying cool stuff and making the body feel good only makes us happy for a little while. After the body is satisfied with drink, sex, wealth, or status, that nagging feeling of unhappiness returns and we begin to wonder how to satisfy it again. Again back to square one. Our souls are still ungratified. They force us to ask questions about why we exist. They force us to search for truth.

This is what I could make from the tone and the spirit of the song.....

I have been listening over and over and over to this song. Well, I never get sick of it...rock music that’s gentle yet epic, with Martin’s lyrics doing the usual job of communicating to heart...

All the songs of X&Y are phenomenal like Speed of Sound, Fix You, What If,etc. Grab the CD/audio cassette soon,else flick the songs if someone has those on his/her laptop/PC.

Keep reading and remain connected...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Child Adoption - A Fad or A Need

The word Adoption has been floating in the news-waves for sometime now both in India and worldwide.

First there was the case of Madonna, who joined a growing list of celebrities including Mia Farrow, Angelina Jolie and Meg Ryan who have adopted children from developing countries. According to Madonna she has acted according to the law in taking custody of a 1-year-old Malawian boy,David Banda. But there is an other side to the story, debate about the legality and morality of the planned adoption. The subject of inter-country adoption has always raised a great deal of debate, in terms of ethical issues as well as the child's ability to adapt.

As per a Malawian law the would-be parents of the adopted kid should live in the country for a year while social welfare officers investigate their ability to care for a child before the final formalities are frozen.However, Malawi's High Court granted Madonna an interim adoption order giving her custody of the boy for 18 months by-passing the set rule. The court said that during that time, the couple would be "evaluated by the courts of Malawi as per the tribal customs of the country." Details here.

Madonna may have had to deal with a lot of criticism after adopting David but it turns out that she might be adopting again. While she was in Malawi she was going to adopt an 18-month-old girl named Jessica Kondanani. But when she saw how sick David was she adopted him instead. She had planned to go back for Jessica, but another couple is trying to adopt her as well and are afraid that Madonna would thwart their efforts.

Now this brings out many questions worth discussion: “Is Adoption the "it" thing to do among the rich and famous?” and “Is Adoption is good/bad?” and “Are people who adopt transracially are misguided?”

The latest buzz in this regard was when Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were reported as looking to adopt a child while making their new film, A Mighty Heart in Pune. Angelina is an ambassador to UN, so probably she wants to add more diversity to her family and pep up her image of international citizen and hence this adoption. The couple already has three children: five-year-old Maddox, Zahara who is nearly two and five month old Shiloh, the last being their biological child and the former two were adopted.

Sources reveal : "Angelina has a philosophy that people enter your life for a reason, that you go to a place for a reason. This made India a perfect spot for them to explore introducing a new culture into their lives. She believes so strongly in adoption.

But later she ditched her plans when people started questioning the legality of adoption and may be for some other reasons.

The theme of adoption in India has been a popular subject for films and television, both of which are powerful instruments of information and mis-information. But of late the topic of adoption has been discussed and debated over vehemently. If one associated adoption with infertility, here are some reasons for adopting a young one. They are:

1.A couple with two or more children of the same sex.
If a couple already has two boys, and they desire for a girl child or vice versa. With no control over the sex of a natural child, they fear trying again. But they find it much safer to go ahead and adopt a child of the opposite sex. Some couples adopt children out of their specific choice of sex/gender of the child. Although the male child is still preferred, the number of families that have registered to adopt a baby girl has gone up. A detailed work in this field has been documented by Vinita Bhargava in her book "ADOPTION IN INDIA" . This book gives a clear picture of the scenario of adoption in the Indian context and touches on the lacunae in this domain.

2.A single person who wants to experience parenthood.
Miss Universe and film actress Sushmita Sen, is a 31 year-old single mother who had adopted a child, Renne long back. The little girl needed a mom and she needed a child and it was as simple and beautiful as that and today both are satisfied individuals.Not just celebrities, but also common people, who wish to remain single, adopt children, in order to experience the joys of parenthood.

3.People involved in their careers.
Some couples do not have the time, energy or the inclination to go through the process of childbirth. They find more convenient to go in for adoption. In some cases, the biological clock of career-oriented women may run out, and they may be compelled to adopt. Few such as Madhumita Deb, creative director, Leo Burnett, Delhi chose to adopt a child as she never wanted to be pregnant, yet she wanted to go through the grind of late nights and nappy changes.(Source: Article titled 'Welcome to she-zone' of the Week Magazine from Manorama Press dated Oct 8th’2006). Salaam Namaste, a popular Hindi flick released late last-year popularised and also glamorized single parenthood. Many single parents are better educated and are able to support themselves so marriage is no longer a financial prerequisite to parenthood. Under enormous work-pressure families are splitting-up and giving rise to single parenthood. The DINK (i.e. double income no kid) population is on rise in India, at least in the big metropolis and I feel adoption is going to be the key to make a complete family.

But is the road to Adoption in India that easy?

In India, there were different sets of rules for adoption based on religion and also the legal rights varied widely. With changing times, a new bill was legislated on 22nd Aug, 2006 by India's President. This bill set national norms for adoption, including the expansion of the definition of "abandoned and surrendered" children to include a juvenile found begging, a street child or a working child, permitting the adoption of a child regardless of religion or marital status and raising the age limit of adoptive parents. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill of 2006 has brought smiles to many a Indians like writer Dilip D’Souza and his wife Vibha.

Adoptions in India have increased 5-fold in the last 15 years.There used to be a shroud of secrecy around adoptions in India. Parents wanted the adopted child to integrate into the family and worried about the child being upset when he or she found out that s/he was not "their child". Also they worried about relatives or neighbors making a hurtful remark.

But times have changed and so is the attitude of an Indian. There are long waiting lists for adopting Indian children. In Delhi itself apparently there are only 250 kids available for 1140 applications. Maternity leave was generally not available to adoptive mothers in India, even though an adoptive mother needed it just as much as a biological mother. The central government recently passed an order reversing this situation in part. In March 2006, the Central government passed an order extending to adoptive mothers the maternity leave of 135 days that biological mothers are entitled to presently. Adoptive mothers can avail for the leave with fewer than two surviving children, for an adopted child upto one year old.

Still there remains a social stigma to this act…. Yes, a monumental task to reform this but am drawn back into thinking about what has been happening in the Western World.If it can happen there,why not here in my Swades.

Cross-posted at Desicritics .

Keep reading and remain connected

Sunday, November 19, 2006

That was an intriguing question......

"Sometimes life throws some intriguing questions, provides profound insights, answers to skeptical questions, and life-changing reasons why there is nothing better on earth than being dead."

These were the words of one of my friends, Ra while returning from a regular evening prayer at the Srikrishna Math, few days back. There was a reason behind this.

Ra had lost his cousin in Chennai who was around 34 years but he was still a child. Still a child because his cousin was mentally retarded since his birth and the worst part was he had consumed kerosene when he was 3 years old. This had added to the severe and profound degrees of retardation. For the last 30 years or so he was treated like a baby, fed in time, served with medicine on a regular basis and was helped for all his daily activities. His parents, working for a Govt PSU, re-locating from one place to another in India as part of internal job transfers, have attended to their child to the best of their abilities. Taking care of a chronically retarded child is one of the most draining and difficult tasks any parent can face. Beyond facing the child's physical challenges and medical needs, they have to deal with the emotional needs. He was medicated at the best hospitals in India as per doctor’s recommendations with the hope that some miracle would happen and that the child would return to normalcy. For them age was a number. The parents were touching 65+ but still they had hope at the end of the tunnel with due support from their daughter settled in the US. Medicines if needed were procured from the US also.

But a human body is not a machine, and after reaching a threshold of survival on artificial methods, it finally gave away. The child finally breathed his last in the first week of Nov’06 after he was hospitalized in the ICU for close 48 hours

There was one question which Ra’s aunt (i.e. the cousin’s mother) asked him which put him into deep thought. She said.

"I don’t want any parent to give birth to such a child who suffered his entire life. More so there is no chance for his re-birth as he had not done a single sin in life. Why would he take a re-birth since his present life was devoid of any wrong doings"

The rationale behind her statement is one takes re-birth and escapes from the cycle of birth and re-birth only when all the sins and ill deeds done by the person in the course of his life are cleaned and wiped off. Only when one comes out un-tarnished from this loop s/he attains nirvana. That’s simple Hindu philosophy to my understanding (though my knowledge in this domain is limited)

When we love someone and s/he is no more, it feels devastating. This seems to be a universal part of our human experience. But why do we have to suffer like this?
If we humans lived our lives separately from others, needing and relying on no one but ourselves, then the loss or death of another would have little impact. But we are social creatures. Compared to others, we spend a remarkably long period of our lives—17 or more years, living with and depending on our parents. We are born into families. We are not solitary, and the price we pay for our attachments is vulnerability, the pain of loss. Because we depend on other people, because they do matter to us, they occupy a special place in our hearts. They are like a part of us and cannot be replaced…any more than our hand or some fond memories could be. When someone we love is gone from our lives, it is as if a piece of us has been torn away. The loss rends the fabric of our lives and a lull ness sets in.

What I could make from Ra’s words is:

The loss of a child is one of the most stressful events in the life of a parent, no doubt about that. I felt, the parents had the feeling of guilt, a feeling that they had violated some responsibility, higher principle, or belief. It was more of a reaction to feelings of helplessness and responsibility. The parents compared their actions against some idealized standard and since they discovered a discrepancy, the death became their fault. Such statements as, "If I had child would have been alive today!" had become part of their thinking.

When,in reality,there was nothing they could have done to change the course of events.They had done all they could have done at this old age also.

Well what torments me is how are the parents going to come out of this emotional trauma and live life the normal way.Well that’s going to be tough as each day,life would flash before them the pictures of their child whom they have served like a kid for the last 30 years day in, day out.They would feel a mixture of emotions. Some feelings and thoughts are fleeting,and some stay for a lifetime.More so they are not inclined to go to the US and spend time with their daughter as for them US is an alien land.I pray for their goodwill and wish they have a peaceful and simple life and move on.

I had a lost one of my friends when I was in college and I had seen in own eyes how he sacrificed his life to save another life.The most painful part was the inexplicable loss for the parents and their reaction at the sight of "Uggi".

There was a touching,straight from the heart write-up on this by Deepti after she bid farewell to her father.

I know death is invincible, unbeatable and inextinguishable but after death, what? and then what? Is it re-birth and if so, for whom and why? There are lots of questions? Can I find convincing replies to those. I guess I need to read more to get my queries answered and its not easy for sure, I know that much.

Cross-posted at Desicritics .

Keep reading and remain connected.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Nov 14th,Children's Day,Did we celebrate it the REAL WAY...

November 14th every year is celebrated in our country as "Children’s Day" and it was on this day that Nehruji was born. Quite naturally, he was the 'beloved' of all the children who gave him the endearing name of 'Chacha Nehru'. As a tribute to this great man and his genuine love for children, his birthday is celebrated all over India as "Children’s Day".A day of fun and fanfare. It is celebrated with singing, dancing and storytelling in schools and colleges as well as on radio, television and other mass media. Special functions are held for children all over the country. The enthusiasm for this day is not much in big cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore etc. The mode of celebration is different as for instance Disney is celebrating Children’s Day with a week long Children’s Film Festival on DVD. The weeklong affair beginning on 14th November will conclude on the 21st of November. The Festival is being organized by Excel Home Videos (The Indian Licensee for Walt Disney). But in small and middle towns this day is of special significance marked by competitions and events in schools.

In contemporary Indian politics, only a scientist, ironically, can be credited with a similar affinity with children. Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, to stress the irony, is not even a mainstream politician - only the President of India.

But this year this day was a gloomy day for all tiny tots as an unfortunate mishap occurred in Noida. A three-year-old boy, Anant was kidnapped in broad daylight by unidentified persons from outside his house in the posh Sector 15 of this Industrial Township. Anant is the younger child of Adobe India MD Naresh Gupta and was on his way to play school, when two motorcycle-borne youth abducted him from the arms of his maid.

What an unfortunate incident to mark this day? To add to this the media couldn’t divert its attention and the entire day the various news channels flashed this news in some form or the other.

In Mumbai there was an incident in which a bunch of spoilt young brats returning from a five-star hotel ran over six laborers sleeping on the pavement, killing all and injuring eight others. The six youths were totally drunk and were driving a Toyota Corolla. All of them were in the age group of 18 to 21. 'The person driving the car, Alister Pereira, has been charged with culpable homicide under Section 304, which is a non-bailable offence, and several other sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).’ More here.

Now guess what will happen? A case will be filed and a trial will begin. It will drag on and on like a steam engine. The key witnesses will be paid and their mouth would be shut deliberately. So after few months the Judiciary system will announce that the case has to be closed for the lack of evidence.Money and Influence will bail out the culprits and they would move scot free.

Is this the kind of youth that Nehru dreamt of for this country or did he want the kids to be abducted at day light only to be returned on payment of ransom.

Nehruji,my country has hope and I believe in it. I am not saying this out of sentiments but from an instance of which I was part of very recently.

Few days back I had been to St.John's Medical College,Bangalore to attend the All India Inter College Fest. There I had a chance encounter with one very humble guy by the name KD.KD took me to all the counters and spoke to me about all the events, contests and various other details of the fest such as the budget, the key sponsors, etc. Till this point he was under the impression that I was a student and another regular participant, only to learn later that I was not one. KD is no ordinary person, he made into the 3rd Best Medical School in India (i.e. St.John's Medical College, Bangalore) after scoring 95% in his +2 examinations from Vizag in Andhra Pradesh and clearing the entrance test. His father works as an employee at "Dock Labor Board" and his mother is a housewife. Since his parents could not afford his fees/expenses of Rs1.7 lakhs per year (close to 1.7*5 = 8.5 lakhs, as in India it takes around 5 years to complete a MBBS degree), he had arranged for the amount through educational loan. He spoke to me and wanted to know if by some means IT firms such as Wipro, TCS, Infosys, etc can help him in any way in the form of scholarship.He is also ready to serve in any of their health or medical related institutions after his studies. I salute KD’s zest for studies and "Never Say Die" attitude. This is what I call India Shining, a small town boy but with lofty dreams to achieve.

This is the most striking feature of contemporary India, one that is full of energy and drive. That is goes about it in an uninhibited, pragmatic and amoral fashion is true. It is different from the older bourgeoisie, which was tolerant, secular and ambiguous. The new class is street smart. It has learnt to fight to rise from the bottom and it has learnt to maneuver the system.

If someone asks me what is the solution to all this and how one can we strike an impressive balance between the ideals of past and modern dictums of today.I am myself confused.My inner life is in parody. I have one foot in India,the other in the West and I belong to neither.I speak a hodgepodge of English and my regional language,the combination varying with the kind of listener. When speaking to a shopkeeper or my housemaid,my verbal brew leans towards the local language;with a peer,I am capable of invoking the purest English.I am alienated from the mass of our people.I mouth platitudes about Indian culture without having read the classics in Sanskrit. Instead,I read Time,Forbes,Fortune magazines to "keep up".I am touchy about India and look to the West for inspiration and recognition. I am more Macaulay’s child and not Manu’s...... So do I really understand the true message of Children’s Day....

As was aptly said in the "Rang De Basanti" movie by one of the key actors : "Ek paaair past pe auur,ek paaair future pe rakh ke,present pe haam mooot rahe hain"

Keep reading and remain connected.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Google vs. - A Desi Perspective on Search Engines

India has today earned a name for itself in the IT services domain globally. Kudos to firms such as Infosys, Wipro, TCS and many more for making this happen but it is delusory to stereotype India as a outsourcing sector in the IT industry. Desis can also be product makers. Most of the creations by Indians, which have, have caused significant changes in the market, have later on been taken over by the IT giants. Everyone is aware of how Sabeer Bhatia’s "Hotmail", the first web-based e-mail service was sold to Microsoft for $400 million. But that was 1997 and this is 2006 and Desis are here to make a change…India’s progress in the product development arena might bring up some enthusiasm amongst Indian technicians who flock abroad for search of such opportunities. (no further comments as there are other factors behind this too.) , a new search engine from India, is attempting to bring much better and relevant search results than popular search engines such as Google and Yahoo for local search. This is a great business plan considering burgeoning economic landscape of India today. Airlines, retail and manufacturing industries in India are on an exponential ramp up mode and so I guess this local search engine will serve the Indians better than a Google can. For instance, a common businessman in Jaipur who wants to sell his products to retailers throughout India can do a better search using this local search than by using Google. So is attempting to fill that Indian content gap.

Guruji is a crawler based local search engine that focuses on Indian content. It has been co-founded by two ex-IIT Delhi guys who have a strong professional background. The team is supported and backed by Sequoia Capital for venture funding and Suvir Sujan (who co-founded Bazzee) as an angel investor .

On the first look, the home page is very much similar to the search engine of global giant Google.The home page is simple and elegant, and the speed of search is quite satisfactory. One may wonder how these guys can call them as first Indian based search engine, as sites like Khoj,123India and IndianSearchEngine are already exists. The latter sites are almost a web-based directory, Yellow pages, while, is using its own crawling mechanism with its proprietary algorithm to search Indian contents in an effective way.

To understand better how a search engine works, lets consider Google’s algorithm, the industry benchmark at a higher level. Google uses a webcrawler googlebot which crawls the entire web and then categorizes the content and creates indexes. It retains all the content both relevant (Indian) and irrelevant (non-Indian), in its database. What Guruji does is in sharp contrast to Google’s approach. It discovers the content while crawling, stores only the India related content and throws out the irrelevant (non-Indian) data. This technique allows Guruji to crawl more, go deeper and hence index more India related data. Straight and simple.

Even though it’s still in beta stage,the homepage says it, but I like the speed with which it serves the result. I think it has capability to do for India,what Baidu ,the local search engine for China did for its people. To learn about the success story,check Economic Times and here.

About the search I tried this.

I searched for "Café Coffee Day" in Bangalore. Have a look at the snapshot. There are two key differences. Check the results here.

1.The top portion of the results page, 'City Results from Guruji' is actually pulling out results like a Yellow book offering address and phone numbers but note that the list is not exhaustive and with time and fine-tuning the algorithm the team would do this, I guess.

2.The later portion of the results is generic web search for the keywords. Again in the web search, it seems the search engine is getting results from domains, which are primarily Indian. That means, better, and intuitive local results than popular search engines such as Google.

The localized search is quite evident if we search for a generic keyword. So I tried Café Coffee Day. And here is the result. The result was impressive with the Café Coffee Day’s India website at the top, followed by results from web pages by Indians.

Check the results here.

If you want results like in a Yellow Page format, try this. Click on the City on the above the search box and then enter the keywords and wait for the results. It would amazingly fast for my keyword "Café Coffee Day Bangalore".

Check the results here.

I think Guruji is a very promising prospect. It has the right people backing it (i.e. founders, investors). And it is not trying to benchmark itself to what the Goliath in this field (Google) does. This is important, for one would need to think out of the box, in order to break Google’s stranglehold on Indian search.

With the increasing usage of Internet among the rural and urban population in India, the localised search has a very good market. But Google is a bigger Brand name today so why use For searching the English keywords, people would prefer Google or Yahoo and so Guruji has to improve its searching mechanism and make it far superior than Google or Yahoo to pull the normal users. As far as the regional languages are concerned there is wide scope but at the same time with more languages and the absence of uniform character encoding adopted for a particular language it is going to be a big task for team. "Phir bhi try karo, you can do it". The site is quite catchy and I want Guruji to be synonymous with search, like Google for India related searches. On the funnier side, can I use it as a verb like say I "guruji it", just like "google it".

There are few more search engines from the desis stable such as is the world's first visual search engine. It focuses visual search on items that are hard to describe linguistically.All you have to do is a "Likeness search" on a photo and Like will show you items that look similar.The brainchild for this is Munjal Shah who in his initial stage was funded by Peter Rip of Crosslink Capital . Read more here .

Similarly there is another search engine by the name Kosmix and one of my school-mates,Gaurav Bhalotia is working for this team as a technical solution architect.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, be alert the Desis are coming soon....

Keep reading and remainconnected..

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Learn This Simple Word.

Anit, was waiting for his flight at the Charles De Gaulle airport observing the chain of passengers rushing here and there. Since his flight was delayed by an hour and a half he bought the latest international best seller Mani Bhowmik's "Code name God" .He was scanning through the pages overlooking the flights preparing for departure on the runway, in front of the huge glass panes looking hazy because of the morning dew. Suddenly, a name "Ananya" was announced and the passenger was requested to board the flight immediately. This name brought to Anit's mind memories of an incident that had occurred ten years back flashed before his eyes.

Memories have a strange way of emerging from the shadows of one's mind, when one least expects it. The mind is an even stranger thing, the most perfect time machine no scientist can ever hope to invent. A mind, which dragged Anit into the past to relive those old memories cached in some corner of his brain.

Strange, but true are the ties of childhood. Looking back now in the newly entered stage of adulthood, with all its accompanying deceptions and complexities, the memories of childhood acquire a rosy tint. Life seemed so much simpler then, and friendship so much truer. Bonds that were formed over lollipops, samosas, bunking classes and peppermints, for some strange reason seem so much more enduring than today's relationships, founded on a mug of beer or on the floors of a corporate board room.

His mind races back to a time when he had lived this earth for all of five years. Anit remembers someone entered school alone, with no apprehension. And before the day was over, she was supposedly no longer alone. He had made a friend within his conscience who would be the best friend he would ever need.

Ananya and Anit never sat next to each other but continued to remain best friends. Lunch boxes and secrets were shared with equanimity, the playground their domain. And though everything that they talked about has now faded from memory, one thing remains — both wanted to remain 'best friends' till college. College being as far as they could look ahead in life, while being in the seventh standard still!

How silly human beings sometime are! Nurturing vain dreams and actually daring to believe in them! But their friendship grew, with their dream securely cocooned in a bubble. The dream lasted for five years. And then, the bubble burst, as it always does. And not surprisingly, Anit was the one who pricked the bubble. A silly reason. What was that reason? Time has a strange way of diminishing what we once considered so important. But egos unfortunately do not seem to diminish with time. His ego only grew. He and she stopped talking to each other. They moved away and apart, not imperceptibly or gradually as some friends do, but with a sudden rupture amid walls of stony silence. Oh! How he longed to break those walls! To build their bubble again! But his 'pride was his wildernesses'. What he wished for, he did not seek to attain.

Ananya and he never spoke for six years.

Only a forced telephonic conversation, that too when the world beneath her feet was shaking brought them together. She had lost her father and that's when she called him. Best friends, yet strangers. Ananya asked for forgiveness. But he? Foolish he, he did not ask for it himself, could not bring himself to say that one word that has mended so many relationships: 'Sorry.'

They had parted on the last day of school as strangers, who knew each other so well, bonded in a tie, which they didn't acknowledge. He never said 'Sorry' in parting, never asked for forgiveness. His ego (this is one attribute that unconsciously kills a person) was pleased. His pride intact. But the hurt and the pain only grew manifolds. But why then he couldn't take this simple childlike step, silence encircled his presence.

He was weeping for within but he wanted to preserve the tears. He never wanted them to drain down. Life sometimes teaches us harsh lessons, but looking back now, he wished this were one lesson; one class life had never taken. Because all it has left behind is a sea of memories filled with futile ifs and buts and a harsh indictment on the frailty of friendship.

He has not met Ananya since then. In fact he does not even know where she is. But this he learnt. That he can now say those words, which he always wanted to say, "Sorry Ananya, tu acchi thi re, I didn't realise that when I saw you in my every day life but now I am a hopeless creature. I always wanted you to be happy. So very sorry, again!".

But still he looked back to those days.

A word can help to heal someone else's wounds...I call this color of adolescence, "between the brown security of childhood and the brown routines of adult life".

Cross-posted at Desicritics

Keep reading and remain connected.

(Note : This is for Neville Dias who mailed me after a loooooooog time being deeply involved in his re-search work at University of Wisconsin–Madison. I guess the chilling cold there cannot tremble him more than when he hears about his school days in Goa...Talk to him about school days in Goa and he has these goosebumps hehehe ...)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Although it rained heavily on the 28th of October 2006 at Bangalore in the afternoon, by evening the dark clouds had given way to a clear sky. The evening was perfectly set for another great performance of a musical, which was staged, from October 27th to 30th October.

Musicals are a form of theater which combine music, songs, spoken dialogue and dance. The entire performance which is an amalgamation of humor, pathos, love, anger and other human emotions,along with the main the story itself, is communicated through words, music, dance and movement. Words, movement and music as the integrated whole are the most interesting facet of this form of art.

This classical form of theater survives only in a few cities in India. The audience for old musical classics in Bangalore, despite the spread of television channels and videocassettes, is still enormous. A full house on the 28th of Oct 2006 at Chowdiah Hall for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (i.e. SBFSB) was a living proof of this. (Picture below is near the entrance to the Hall.)

"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" is basically a love story that charms the viewer with warmth and wit. The musical loaded with foot-tapping songs, wonderful dance numbers, and an enjoyable story, enthralled the entire audience. It's a wonderful treat whether you have or have not seen it.

The story is about a backwoodsman named Adam, the eldest of seven brothers who live together on their remote farm in the Oregon Territory in the 1850s. Adam goes to town to find a bride and is fortunate to find Milly. Milly is swept off her feet by the dashing young man, and without knowing much about him, she marries him that very afternoon. When they return to Adam's backwoods cabin, Milly is surprised to find that Adam lives with his six likable but ill mannered brothers. The brothers have been named alphabetically with names from the Bible: Adam, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank and Gideon.

She takes on the daunting task of civilizing these men. Milly teaches Adam's younger brothers manners and social mores, including how to dance. One of the highlights in the play is when Milly tells Gideon,the youngest among the brothers the word "etiquette" and he has no clue as to what it means. Milly then explains Gideon what it really means. After undergoing a thorough training session,the brothers test their new manners at a barn raising, where they meet six girls namely Dorcas, Ruth, Martha, Liza, Sarah and Alice. Fortunately, the girls like the brothers too. However, the girls already have wooers who jealously taunt the brothers into fighting during the barn-raising.The brothers are banished from the town as they are considered uncultured and rustic.

Winter arrives, and the six younger brothers waste their time thinking about the girls. Adam inspires his brothers to kidnap the girls of their choice. The brothers, follow their elder brother's suggestion and cause an avalanche so that they can't be followed by the townspeople. The girls are terribly upset at being kidnapped, and Milly is furious at this act. She sends the brothers to the barn while the girls are living in the house. Adam, who is also furious, leaves for the family's cabin to live out the winter by himself. Months pass, and eventually it is spring. The girls have by now fallen in love with the brothers, who are now allowed to court the girls. Milly gives birth to a daughter, Hannah (picking up the Biblical-alphabetical pattern). Gideon rides to the cabin to inform Adam about his daughter's arrival and asks Adam to come home, but Adam refuses to do so.

This part of the musical has display of male chauvinism,when Adam says that "a female's place is behind a male". But Gideon who by now has acquired true knowledge slaps his elder brother and says "a female's place is beside a male and not behind a male".

Adam, realizes that he was wrong and returns home to see his baby daughter. As a newly responsible father, he is more concerned about the townspeople. Adam feels that the girls should be taken back to their homes in the town by his brothers, much against the interest of his brothers.The girls, by now, are deeply in love with their boyfriends and they all want to stay at the farm. Meanwhile, the townspeople arrive, with the intention of taking vengeance against the brothers for the kidnapping the girls. Then Alice's father, who is a preacher, hears a baby cry in the distance, and worries that the baby might belong to one of the girls. When he asks the girls whose baby it is, they all decide, simultaneously, to claim the baby as their own. With this misinformation given, the wish of the the girls and the brothers gets fulfilled,the townspeople insist that all six couples marry immediately in a shotgun wedding.

The performers for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers were Sharon White (Milly), Arvind Kasturi (Adam) and Gautam Dev (Preacher) among others. Michael D'Souza directed the music. The six musicians played with gusto in an attempt to mesmerize the audience. The dances were choreographed by Lionel De Nazareth, Neha Kapoor and John Fernandez. Arvind Kasturi, who plays the role of the chief protagonist, specializes in community medicine in St. John's Medical College and Hospital and did his medicine at Kasturba Medical College in Mangalore. The best performance of the day was by Sharon White as her dancing was highly energetic and her songs were solacing.

Arvind Kasturi (Adam).

In my view the musical is about the civilizing influence of women - in that Adam's bride, Milly, teaches the un-mannered men table manners, courtship and the need for sexual restraint during a long, hard winter.

Sharon White(Milly).

Alvares did a great job in her directorial skills. SBFSB being an all time classic, everybody would have read about it somewhere or seen the movie and then would compare her effort with their previous experiences. "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" is one of the greatest Hollywood musicals featuring some of the top talents of MGM's heyday, and any flaws were likely to be magnified. But Alvares pulled off with a fine job in that it doesn't appear like another "guys-want-girls, guys-kidnap-girls, girls-scream-then-succumb" storyline.

Alvares introducing the team on stage.
The only pitfalls of the performance, which I could think of, are two:

1.The brothers' unkempt cabin should give the picture of untidiness and appalling, but it looks as tidy as the place we've seen Milly come from.

2.The costumes were not up to the mark for an 1850 period play and it appeared more contemporary. Leila seemed to have missed paying attention to this little detail.Her handling of this challenging play showed flashes of brilliance in putting the dance sequences immaculately "because you can't have a musical without dances". So all in all I would give her a 9/10 and keep it up.

With increasing costs and declining newspaper space for theater, making the effort a commercially successful one was always going to be a challenge. The CAUSE Foundation, which presented the play, tied up with local radio channels for publicity.Alvares started CAUSE in 1997 with the primary objective to showcase the existing local talent in the field of the creative arts, with the surplus funds going to charity. Alvares is a very common name for Bangalore theatre bugs and she has close to 10 years of theatrical experience.

This is from one of the interviews, which Alvares gave to Times of India. "Though I have lived in America and London, I prefer Europe because it's so quaint. But her all time favorite destinations are Coorg and Goa". In that she also mentions her love for Bangalore and the interest it still retains in musicals in this age of candy gloss movies, run of the mill block busters and re-mix songs which shatter the simplicity and authenticity of art.

Alvares thanking the audience.

(Info: The Hindi movie Satte Pe Satta, released in 1982 is partially based on the storyline of this musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.)

Alvares and team, Bangalore theatre aficionados will be keenly waiting for your next production, so come soon.

Cross-posted at Desicritics

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