Friday, October 30, 2009


The ends ran around one another and the loops intersected. There were knots that could only get tighter with every pull of a strand. The loose ends needed some tying up…

I found that bundle of mess in my vehicle’s storage space this morning. My Sony Walkman earphones had got badly entangled. And that’s the story most days no matter how neatly I store them the previous evening. It is as if they find their way into an entanglement. And then I have to spend a few minutes every morning sorting it all out before I leave for work.

But then I have learnt over two years of disentangling Sony earphones that pulling at the ends does not help. Neither does pulling at any strand somewhere in the middle. The easiest and quickest way is to pull at the whole mess simultaneously so that wires get spaced out and the loops get really big and the whole mess kinda sorts itself out on its own. The idea is to space it out and let everything move away from everything else.

In human relationships and most often in the ones closest to our hearts there is conflict. There are disagreements. There is friction. There is abrasion. And it is unpleasant. And then there is a fight. We bring up the same issues from 2 years ago and fight about them without going anywhere. We pull at each other’s points of view. We pick up a random strand, that comment from an evening no one remembers, and make it the foundation of our argument. And the knots just tighten.

The important thing to remember is to space out in times of conflict. Move away. Create gaps. Either verbal gaps through silence or physical gaps through absence. The loops will enlarge. And you will see the spaces in your own argument, the loopholes to be precise. And it will be much easier to disentangle the knots.

It is natural to find our way into conflict. I guess that is a part of being human and being unique in our own right. Interaction between any two people then becomes a matter of push and pull until equilibrium is attained. So we must remember that it is ok to get entangled.

Just like my earphones always do.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Funny Thing Called War: Seriously Good

It’s the new kids on the block…the theatre block to be precise. Tahatto is one of the newest entrants to the theatre scene in Bangalore. Last fortnight, they came out with their maiden production called ‘A Funny Thing Called War’, a comedy. This is its review. But this is not funny. This is serious.

Let’s start from the posters and the pre-event communication. I thought the poster was very well-designed with no clutter and just the name of the play and the details of the venue and time. Of course there was the mention that it was a funny play based on the Black Adder series. It was simple and straightforward. What took the cake was the photograph used on the poster – a picture of the entire cast in their costumes and wearing as serious an expression as possible when the title actually said ‘A Funny Thing Called War’ I thought it grabbed the requisite amount of attention and got the message across.

The event was publicized also through Facebook, newspapers and the Opus weekly update had a mention too. So on the publicity front the production was pretty much there.

As one entered the venue – Opus in the Creek – on the day of the premiere, one was given a handout labelled ‘Top Secret’ outlining basic things like the background of the play, where it is based (for those who aren’t too familiar with the Black Adder series I presume) and the cast and production team. The font used on the handout was Courier and the text used standard war and secret service terminology, all of which went very well with the theme of the play. Quite well done. Sample this from the ‘Location’ section: We could tell you where, but then we would have to kill you.

The set was done up in a basic but effective manner given that the play takes place in the trenches. The stage was used well by the characters at most times and they seemed to know their place well on the stage. The lights and sound co-ordination is what impressed me the most as it was flawless. Very well done…the light during the scenes where it is supposed to be dark, the voice-overs during the phone calls…everything was up to the mark. Another remarkable thing about the sound was that although the characters were using microphones suspended from the roof, they were quite audible. Full marks to the cast for effective voice modulation and volume control since it is very easy for the voice to be lost when using microphones!

The costumes were great and the cast looked perfect. So were the props being used in the play. No complaints on that front either.

Coming to the acting, I have to say for a first time production it was wonderful. All the requisite expression of a typical British comedy (which is what the Black Adder series was) were captured well. My best memory from the play is that of Bob played by Preethi Suresh…Bob is a driver – a girl dressed up as a boy who just wants to witness a war. Captain Black Adder spots that he is a girl but keeps it secret on her request. Now everytime there is a joke or a funny situation Bob starts to laugh like a girl and after attracting weird stares from everyone straightens up and laughs in a more deep voice and curt manner. Preethi did that wonderfully well. I’ll just never forget that. But yes, all the characters were right up there when it came to the acting and expressions.

So what didn’t work?

The venue. To anyone who is looking at staging a play, I would strongly suggest against considering Opus in the Creek. Understandably, it is a venue more suited for small concerts and musical performances (even there it is not the most perfect place going by my Soulmate experience). It is open, it is spread out and it is distracting. On top of that, that tree in the middle ends up blocking some bit of the stage or another from the right side. I couldn’t help getting distracted more than once.

Also, at some points the voice of General Melchett (played by Vaisakh Sankar) became muffled and I felt the words ran into each other. His volume was good but the pace and the manner in which he delivered the dialogues came in the way of clarity. I had to strain myself to understand what was being said but it could just be me.

Going by the fact that the venue was not really a technical flaw in the play, A Funny Thing Called War gets away with just one minor glitch in my opinion and that is more than splendid for a first production. And that warrants that as it grows Tahatto will only do a better job with each production.

For now, at a more theatre-oriented venue, ‘A Funny Thing Called War’ by Tahatto is a play you should definitely catch for its performances and the entertainment it provides.

Over and Out.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Rolling Stone's Moss: Going Nowhere

There is no rational explanation. For a lot of things.

For Love. For Hate. For Blind Faith.

Neither for Wanderlust.

And so I won’t attempt one.

I was travelling all of last week. With myself. With a good book, some good music, a camera. With a copy of Lonely Planet. With a map. But with no plan. There is no rational explanation as to why I felt compelled to travel alone or without a plan. So I am not going to attempt it.

There is also no logical reason for why I would want to completely step out of my comfort zone and elements and hop onto some of the dirtiest buses I have ever seen, get puked on by children stuffed with festival food (and still manage to continue sitting in that position for 3 hours when in normal circumstances I would have probably instantly taken a bath and thrown those clothes away or something) on the way to Mysore, let rain water drip onto me from the vent in the roof of a KSRTC Ordinary bus through the night while travelling to Hospet, get soaked in the rain for 3 days straight (something I HATE) and walk around Hampi in the a soaked pair of Nikes and still manage to enjoy myself…so yes, I won’t attempt to come up with one.

The only thing I can say is that it was the people who made it bearable and enjoyable. They made cold rainy days seem warm with their hospitality and extra care for a single girl travelling alone in India. They made it special. People always do…

Like my friend’s mother who made a nice pudding and remembered what I had the last time I came over so as to change the menu and prepare delectable Dosas for brunch…

And my other friend’s mother whose expert Iyengar cooking made each meal a joy, who made sure I was comfortable at all times asking if I would have milk at night and making my favourite Idlis for breakfast although Aloo-paratha was on the menu for the day, setting up mosquito nets and making me feel completely at home…

The old man on the bus to Mysore who woke me up from my dozing in Bellur since he didn’t want me to sleep through my stop…I told him I was going to Mysore and disappointed him…

The young boys on the bus – residents of Bannur and Somnathpur – who kept telling me to return to Mysore from Bannur until I obliged since they were concerned I wouldn’t find a room in Somnathpur…and so I turned back…

The many bus conductors at Mysore who would look at me waiting for my bus alone and come up and ask if I needed to find something or get somewhere…

The young lady employee of KSRTC who stood around with me at Mysore because I looked lost looking for my bus to Hospet…she was headed to Hospet too on the ‘Aardinary’ bus that I had a ticket for : ) … a very nice person...I forgot to ask her name but I’ll never forget her smile…

Smt. Madhusri who joined the young lady and me in waiting for our bus to Hospet. Upon discovering that I was headed to Hospet and subsequently to Hampi she gave me a long list of places to see and things to do over the next three days by making Hospet my base. I could explore Hampi, Anjanadri, Kudalsangma, Badami, Aihole, Patadakkal all from Hospet. She told me long interesting stories about each place…she seemed to be very well-read. We talked about religion and management…and soon I realized why I enjoyed the whole conversation so much…she was almost my mirror in thoughts!

I met another person though her conversations…her late mother who was a phenomenal lady born two generations ahead of her time. I thoroughly enjoyed that conversation. As if that wasn’t enough, aunty told me not to waste money on a hotel for just freshening up in the morning and took me home with her, made me some lovely chai while I got ready for the next leg of the journey and we spoke some more. It was one of the most fulfilling encounters ever…

As soon as Madhusri Aunty let me go, I was sent into the hands of another wonderful person – Smt. Nagarathna – whom I sat next to on my way to Hampi. She asked me where I was coming from and where I was headed to and when she realized I was travelling alone she told me to come to the post office with her (she is the sub-postmaster) and take rest while she and her colleagues helped me find my way around Hampi. She immediately called her colleague to find a guesthouse and a guide who would be safe to see Hampi with. So by the time I arrived in Hampi (which was practically 20 minutes after we left Hospet) I had nothing to worry about. Of course in this case too they didn’t want me to check in before the evening so I would save money and with my bag at the post office I roamed around all of Hampi with no care in the world. I was practically the guest of the post office and that included getting a set of Hampi post cards for half the price so I could send them home with the special Hampi inscription on them…

Mr. Srinivasa at the post office found me a nice guesthouse and we walked to The Mango Tree restaurant in the afternoon to get lunch packed for all of us. He told me many stories – mythological and otherwise, about Hampi and arranged for an auto driver-cum-guide (they said to the agent – he has to be a ‘Yajmaan’, don’t send a young guy. This is a single lady travelling alone). Post a late lunch I checked into the guesthouse while Aunty and Mr. Srinivasa started wrapping up their work for the day. We decided we’d meet the next morning and I should leave to look around with the guide assigned with the task of showing me around…

Khaja, my guide, picked me up late in the afternoon and took it upon himself to educate me about the Hampi-Vijayanagara Empire. He made sure he explained the history in as much detail as he could in the short time he had…he had to drop me off at my guesthouse by 6 PM in the interest of social ethics. I admire him for that. The next day the rain Gods unleashed their fury. We had decided to go on a tour at 8:30 if it didn’t rain. He showed up at 8:30 AM anyway. I met him on the rooftop restaurant (nearly every guesthouse has one) at 9:30 AM, which is when he came back. It was still pouring so we decided to wait for it to clear up. He kept checking at the guesthouse every time the rain reduced to a drizzle. And finally we were able to visit the Vijay Vittala Temple late in the afternoon leaving him little time again. He wouldn’t let me go to the ruins all by myself since it was dangerous. And that’s how everyone took care of me at Hampi.

I spent the third day in Hampi mostly sitting in the Mango Tree watching the river rise or in the Post Office post lunch. I did a bit of work for Aunty since I was getting bored anyway. At the end of the day, an American walked in hoping to send a few postcards and I started talking to him…his name was Charlie. It looked like he was travelling alone in India and one can imagine how boggling that can be sometimes given that Indians hardly ever manage that themselves. So I gave him my contact in case he faced some problem while in Bangalore (his next destination). I don’t know what prompted me to do that but I recently read in the Chicken Soup for the Indian Teenage Soul about passing favours on and I guess I was doing the same for when people were super nice to me in the Czech and Slovak Republics.

We caught up with Charlie this past Sunday and had a very nice conversation. And that’s how my unplanned travel led me to another friend.

Aunty made me travel back with her to Hospet and told me where to eat during the 5 hour wait for my bus to Bangalore and that I should be careful and not roam around in the rain. While leaving she said she was feeling unsettled to leave me at the bus station and go and that I should keep in touch. I could have cried I swear. I didn’t.

I couldn’t even tell most of them how touched I was given my broken knowledge of spoken Kannada. I just hope they all know they have a special place in my life and heart.

More than anything Going Nowhere was a journey to reaffirm everyone’s faith in the goodness of people and humanity…They were all strangers who had no reason to go out of their way and their schedules to help a traveller who could hardly do anything for them in return and to share personal stories that would make her travel memorable. There is no rational explanation why they would want to do that.

So I am not going to attempt one.

Some pictures from the trip...