Sunke Shor Banaraswala...

Or "The noise in Benares and how I felt after being exposed to it" :-).

Here are some delightful snippets from a book I am currently reading - Butter Chicken in Ludhiana : Travels in Small Town India by Pankaj Mishra :-

The most uniform and conspicuous feature of the towns and cities you travel through in North India, and also the most serious menace to civilized life in them, is noise. It accompanies you everywhere - in your hotel room, in the lobby, in the elevator, in the streets, in temples, mosques, gurdwaras, shops, restaurants, parks - chipping away at your nerves to the point where you feel breakdown to be imminent. It isn't just the ceaseless traffic, the pointless blaring of horns, the steady background roar that one finds in big cities. It is much worse: the electronics boom in India has made cassette players available to anyone with even moderate spending power. Cassettes too are cheap, especially if you buy pirated ones. People diminished by urban existence can now fill up the immense vacuum of their lives by a continuous production of sound.

Further along, Mishra writes about his difficult experience in Benares, the previous year, dealing with the aforementioned problem.

For, to be woken up at five in the morning by the devotional treacle of Anup Jalota, Hari Om Sharan and other confectioners, all of them simultaneously droning out from several different cassette players; to be relentlessly assaulted for the rest of the day and most of the night by the alternately over-earnest and insolent voices of Kumar Sanu, Alisha Chinoy, Baba Sehgal singing 'Sexy, Sexy, Sexy', 'Ladki Hai Kya Re Baba', 'Sarkaaye Liyo Khatiya' and other hideous songs; to have them insidiously leak into your memory and become moronic refrains running over and over in your mind; to have your environment polluted and your day destroyed in this way was to know a deepening rage, an impulse to murder, and, finally, a creeping fear at one's own dangerous level of derangement. It was to understand the perfectly sane people you read about in the papers, who suddenly explode into violence one fine day; it was to conceive a lasting hatred for the perpetrators, rich or poor, of these auditory atrocities.

The book was published in 1995. It describes Mishra's journeys through the smaller towns and cities of India during the post-liberalization period. He even visits Bangalore, which was then a "Pensioner's Paradise". I guess the best thing about his travels is that he had no fixed itinerary as such (reminds me of our trip to Pune quite sometime back :-). Thoroughly enjoying the book.

Tags : A Bookworm's Diet, Bangalore

Posted by Rajat @ 3:42 PM   |  Comments

Percentage Problem

The SSLC (Secondary School Leaving Certificate) examination results were declared today. Radio Mirchi 93.3 FM, the new private radio channel in Bangalore tried to cash in on the accompanying frenzy by announcing that those who have scored 93.3% in the exam would get special gifts, provided they were among the first 'n' to call in or leave a message (I forgot the value of 'n'. Was it 3? Or 5? Uh, never mind). Of course, the claimants would need to produce the appropriate proof to collect the gifts. Good thinking I would say.

However, I am not sure whether the percentage had to be exactly 93.3 or whether anything between 93.3 & 93.4 was fair enough. I am also unsure whether rounding off was allowed - would 92.9999 qualify? So agonizingly close! If rounding off was indeed permitted, then would 93.99 be acceptable? Seeing these grey areas, I am inclined to believe that the folks at Radio Mirchi would be better off by demanding exactitude. But that would in turn mean that a student needs to have scored 583.125 marks (out of the grand total of 625) which is impossible. So what did Radio Mirchi do? I presume they settled for 583 (93.28%). Anyway, I didn't bother following this till the end - so no concrete answers there.

Come to think of it, Radio City 91 FM, the first private radio channel in Bangalore could also have put forward a similar scheme. They wouldn't need it though. Poor AIR (All India Radio) - the public radio station could do no such thing as the frequency at which they broadcast is 101.3 FM :-). Not that it would have helped, for the quality of their content (vis-à-vis the private channels) is pathetic.

Tags : Bangalore, Humour

Posted by Rajat @ 10:28 PM   |  Comments

A villain remembered

The year was 1996. It had been around 2 months since I had entered high school, when I received a letter from my 'alma mater' asking me to attend that year's Independence Day celebrations in our locality as I would be receiving an award for being the school topper in the Class VII examinations. I knew there would be some big names at the event as it had been the practice of the organisers to invite prominent personalities from various fields to the function. Naturally I was excited at the prospect of being 'feted' by some big shot :-). However I was a tad disappointed to learn that the award would be given by Vajramuni, one of the most popular villains in the Kannada film industry. The appropriateness of inviting a 'bad guy' to give away an award for 'academic excellence' to impressionable youngsters was lost on me at that time. August 15th arrived and I went to the venue along with my parents & my kid brother. Now, Vajramuni had a characteristic style of demonstrating villainy - while plotting the downfall of the hero (usually Rajkumar) his eyes would narrow down to slits, his anger would be theatrical to the core, the typical sneer would be present most of the times. It was rather strange to see the same man looking serious in a dignified way and actually smiling kindly. In the end, he presented me with a cup & also garlanded my dad. I still have two photographs of the award ceremony.

This man who had been jailed, beaten & killed innumerable times on the silver screen, expired for the last time on January 5, 2006. I learnt about this the next day when I glanced at the front page of the newspaper before leaving for office. All through my journey to the office, a sense of sadness prevailed. Though I had met the man for a few fleeting moments, his presence that day had impressed upon me the distinction between reel & real life.

May his soul rest in peace.

Tags : Bangalore, Blogger Days, Life, Movies

Posted by Rajat @ 10:58 PM   |  Comments

Bombay Post

Last Wednesday, after attending the afternoon's talks at FOSS.IN, I went to this restaurant on Airport Road called Bombay Post for dinner with my team.

Bombay Post Interiors

The place has an old-worldly charm about it. Much effort seems to have been expended to recreate the mystique of Bombay of yore. Almost all the walls had charcoal sketches of Bollywood stars of yesteryear. The walls near the table at which we were seated were graced by sketches of some of the best bad men of Bollywood over the years - Danny Denzongpa (I strongly suspect the sketch was of Danny's role as Bakhtavar Seth in Hum), the suave K N Singh, Prem Chopra and Pran. The soft lighting and the golden oldies playing in the background serve to heighten the feeling of being part of another era. All these nostalgic elements, coupled with some good food made for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Bombay Post is located at Carlton Towers on Airport Road.

Tags : Bangalore, Blogger Days, Food

Posted by Rajat @ 8:00 PM   |  Comments