Archive for the ‘City in Pictures’ Category

Fiction: The Park*

A park separates them.

If it can be called a park, that is. A grassy patch chequered with muddy patches, that turn into puddles in the monsoon. The dogs like it anyhow. They keep him awake at night with their barking. Nobody seems to care at 2 in the a.m.

One such night is filled with little vapours of heat rising from under his neck each time he shifts, on the pillow. He sits up and puts his feet down on the floor. The ground is cool and the thought of sleeping there occurs to him. But he turns it aside. He’ll only wake up with aching muscles. A sudden buzzing in his ear reminds him of the reason he woke up. Getting up is surprisingly easy. He supposes he didn’t really fall asleep earlier. So he crosses the room to draw the mosquito net across the window. Small relief, that, the mosquitoes still get in mysteriously. He curses the puddles, the lazy gardener responsible for the park’s upkeep, the real estate agents for whom it’s a reason to hike up the flat’s prices.

His head hurts. The EMI is due in three days. He could put it on his credit card but then what will he shop with for the rest of the month? The incentive. One windfall that’ll take care of all his problems. But he’s having trouble even keeping up with so little sleep. And the worry keeps him awake nights. Not for the first time he wonders how different his life might have been if he hadn’t bought this flat.

A thin rivulet of sweat runs down the side of his forehead. In the heat, it is almost a relief to feel something cold. The ice of his impotence.

A sudden gust blows across his cheek and he slides back the mosquito net and leans out to catch it. It’s gone. Great, a grand welcome to more mosquitoes. But he doesn’t pull back. He’s past caring now.

When he finally looks up, hand on the window to slide it back into place, he stops. The city is never completely dark. The lights on the billboards, the neon sign flashing the name of the mall next door (another reason the real estate rates are so high) all contribute to little stray beams. Like leftovers thrown to the dogs, even the park is aglow in an imitation of moonlight. The dogs are scampering.

And he realizes that he looked up because of the sound. He squints into the darkness for the source. All around the park, ghostly black shapes tower, the other buildings that share the park. It’s like a crossword or a reverse of one. More black but a few white (and yellow) squares here and there. He looks at the familiar visions of other late-nighters. A fan is going in one while flickering images of a TV from another throw out strange reflections on the facing building. And in the building exactly opposite, a blue-white window frames a dark silhouette.

He can’t see much else around it. And because they’re exactly level, there’s no sight of the walls and shadows that fall on them. He doesn’t know anything about the flat or its occupant. They face each other, separated by the park.

He feels the need to avert his eyes immediately. It feels like the figure opposite is aware of him, knows he’s been watching. When he looks up, the figure hasn’t moved. So he stares back, defiantly. But the same uncomfortable feeling overcomes him. He turns away and sits down on his bed. But once he’s sitting, he can’t see the window. So he stands up again.

His stomach flutters and little beads of sweat form on his forehead, this time a different temperature. It’s a curious, forgotten feeling, this knowing that someone else is awake at the same time. It feels companionable.

The dogs start whining again and he grimaces. He feels like he could strangle the barking ones. If he only dared. Suddenly a shout rings out and he hears what sounds like splashing water. The figure across is holding up something that looks like a plastic mug. He starts laughing. It’s effective, he thinks. The dogs vanish almost instantly.

The black shape has the left arm placed on the hip, or perhaps on the windowsill. The other arm is crooked at an angle and seems to be saying hi to him. But it isn’t moving so he concludes that it is resting on a screen. Then, impulsively, he lifts up his hand and mirrors the pose.

The figure shifts almost immediately and turns to its left. In that flash, he can see it’s a woman or perhaps a girl. Her nose is sharp and ends in an equally defined chin. She turns again. Then she lifts up her right arm and reclaims her pose. It’s like she’s saying hi back.

When he returns to bed, the clock shows that it’s seven minutes since he got up. He turns around again. The figure has gone but the light is still on. The dogs won’t come back tonight, he thinks. He lies down and shuts his eyes. In a few minutes he’s fast asleep.

————————————————–
* A story about neighbors and companionship in Mumbai.

Mumbai Ka King Kaun? Deewar Pe Dekho!

A very quick update on yesterday’s street festival. It would have been nice if it had been a day-long fest and each of the events staggered a bit.

I started out with a detailed itinerary, knowing even then the futility of trying to cover all the events. Kya karen, they were all so appealing! I started with the Wall Project, because it was the first event and yes, also because it enjoys a special place in my heart. :-)

AmZ met me in Bandra and we spent a pleasant (if not fruitless) half-hour driving up and down Tulsi Pipe Road trying to find the others. The event details had only said that the project was open for painting on the blank walls left over from the earlier events. But maybe because of the heat and also since it was a less monitored event, the crowd clustered around a tree-shaded patch close to Mahim.

I daresay some people may have painted over earlier paintings. But I’m just going to take a note from a friend’s diary and say that street art is about layers over layers.

I had a run in with the shopkeeper of the only hardware shop open on that stretch.  I know it was hot but that wasn’t my fault and besides no one should be crabby about doing extra business.  Grrrrr, horrible man!


So I found myself dressed to paint in denim overalls and bright pink rubber gloves but with no paints, no brushes and no wall. Mercifully for me, Manan and his friends invited me to join them in their part of colour splashing. Here are the results.

Since they’d already started their panel, I didn’t join them but I was graciously given both the border panels to splash about with. On the right, I created a warli painting. After all these years of sketching and fabric-painting, this is the first time I’ve actually created this wall art on a real wall. Much fun it was.

E Vestigio was there all along, heckling us and snapping pics. (I do hope she’ll put up a post with them soon!) In retaliation, I incorporated her into the warli painting along with the others who were painting the wall. Can you guess which one she is? The fun bit about an event like this is the camaraderie and silliness that goes hand-in-hand with actually executing the project.

The panel on the left actually had a few pictures of gods and the pavement-dwellers asked us to not touch those. In cognizance of this, a group had left the top half empty and was in the process of creating a Pink Floyd album cover on the bottom. But the top looked rather stark. So I tempered the parts around the pictures with blue paint and created a kolam, which is fairly appropriate next to a picture of the Gods, I think. :-)

Friends and familiar faces I spotted were Neil Dantas, Shadez and Leztah. The mad (o’ wot?) Sapna Bhavnani screamed out “IDEEEEEEEAAAAAAAA!” as she flew past in an Elvis Presley wig, as a part of the Superheroes on bicycles event. A few panels down, Ranjeet, Neeraj and their gang put up their green and peaceful messages to the world.

The Superheroes on bicycles briefly sailed past us and stopped to ogle our walls and let themselves be ogled at. Much funness. Mumbaikers need to be taught to stare. :-)

By the time we packed up it was close to 8. So we made our way to Carter Road to catch the Mad Fake Tea Party. It was too dark by then and the party that had presumably been on for a few hours, was winding down. Still we got a few glimpses of funkily dressed people and the remaining postcards on the table.

All in all, we really only did one event completely but as Manan puts it,

What a wonderful, satisfying way to spend a Sunday!

Dischordian + Gillian Grassi: UTV World Movies and Music @ Cafe Goa

Movies & Music with Bombay Elektrik Projekt

I was at Café Goa this Wednesday (20th January) for the UTV World Movies & Music event organized by the Bombay Elektrik Projekt. As it was, the trek to Bandra is a formidable thought (and I stop short of saying ‘unrealistic’ since that’s what’s I call travelling to town). In typical Mumbaiker fashion, I aim for efficient usage of time so I clubbed this with another event – meeting a longtime friend/reader of my blog. We decided to skip the movie in favor of coffee & chat and come back for the music performance.

Gillian Grassie

The opening act was by Gillian Grassie, a harpist from Philadelphia on a year-long tour of several countries including India to study the relationships between new technologies and independent music scenes around the globe. I managed to catch only the last few minutes of her act and what little I saw was quite mesmerizing. The harp carries associations of white-clad angels and an otherworldy, semi-religious feel of music. Gillian’s music was none of those things but managed to bring a sweet freshness to instantly hummable tunes. Her fingers seemed to be feather-touching, almost dancing on the strings of the harp (which was almost as big as her..and here I thought the harp would be a much smaller instrument). The harp provided only a very soft background to the songs which primarily rode on her voice. It’s quite impressive to create a song purely from one’s voice, virtually unassisted by the grandeur of an orchestra and Gillian pulled it off, holding the audience spellbound. I do wish I had made it to the venue earlier to catch her entire performance.

The headlining act of the evening was Dischordian, a venture by Garreth D’mello (also of Split). Dischordian is described as ‘an attempt to move away from the wall of sound and aggression and testosterone that makes up most rock music, an attempt to strip music down to its basics’.

Dischordian at Cafe Goa: 20 Jan 2010

Garreth was accompanied by Howard Pereira on his guitar and Agnnelo Picardo (Aggie), the percussionist/trumpeteer. The last began the evening, hugging a trumpet close to his chest while listening to Garreth and Howard spark up the show. I’ve never seen a trumpet that close. The advantage of a place like Café Goa is the proximity it provides between the performer and the audience. So I kept my eyes trained on the trumpet, an instrument I only have vague associations with, of loudness and some sort of stiff-necked wedding band. Thus it came as a pleasant surprise when the trumpet actually made its entry into the music at ‘The Old Whore’. Aggie led it in with the kind of regal dignity and grandeur that you would associate with a quiet, well-built black man who surprises you with jazz. Yes, jazz was unmistakably what I heard in Dischoridian’s sound everytime the trumpet was a part of it.

Garreth himself has tremendous presence on stage. His face is boyish and manner as laidback and easygoing as his Goan roots. But when he begins to sing, those notions melt away as you are carried off in the power and forceful magnetism of his rich voice. It’s a deep voice, the kind that sounds mature and all-knowing with wisdom that comes from having experienced excitement and grown past it. Possibly because of the selection of songs and the jazz feel that I described earlier, it also felt like a strong but gently caress, the sort that can crush but knows how not to.

I’ve heard ‘The Old Whore’ before, live as well as a recording. It has a classic country-western feel to it. Some artists sound much better in person than on the polished finish of a recording and Dischordian is certainly in this category.

Scourge of Love‘ revved up the tempo and suddenly the audience was drawn into the performance, before we even knew it, thumping our feet and trying to sing along (or hum along at least). This is when Swati who had accompanied me clapped her hands and called Garreth, India’s answer to Kurt Cobain (which elicited a weak smile from Garreth when I told him later, followed by a hasty retreat).

The piece de resistance of Dischordian‘s performance has to have been ‘Bucket of Blood’ (I actually thought that was ‘Bucket of Love’ when I tweeted about it);-). It’s a racy, foot-thumping number, all adrenalin and blood-rushes. I’ve not seen Garreth in his former avatar but several people I know have given me a pretty graphic account of his rockstar days as a tee-shirt ripping stage-stud, girls screaming et al. His shirt stayed firmly on and he remained seated but this song was a more than adequate hint to those days. And yes, there were a lot of people screaming, even in that tiny room in the café, men and women alike.

Agnnelo Picardo of Dischordian

The trumpet was replaced by a sort of bongo (hand-drum?) for the same song and served to showcase Aggie’s talent. All artists are trying to communicate something in their own ways and media. Musicians face that challenge by appealing to something whose response can’t often be quantified in words – melody, beat, the combination of the various sounds made by wind and strings and voice. Some instruments like the guitar and indeed, the human voice make that connection a lot more easily but it is a greater challenge to connect with the audience with the more distant (but grand) percussion. Aggie displays as much presence as Garreth does, in a different way. As the lead guitarist and vocalist, albeit with his own brand of showmanship, Garreth is the flash-and-dazzle of Dischordian but Aggie makes his presence felt subtly and yet, noticeably. It’s an impressive talent and makes for a great performance.

Garreth solo

Garreth performed solo on ‘One of these days‘ and ‘How I wait”, which while melodious, didn’t quite send me into rapture like the earlier songs. They could just be the kind of songs you’d prefer to listen to within the intimacy of headphones and in solitude rather than with a big group of people. Fortunately Howard and Aggie returned to perform ‘She lied to me’ and a cover version of Jello Biafra’s ‘Are you drinking with me, Jesus?‘ which really had the crowd howling in appreciation. The other songs they performed were ‘Same old conversations‘, ‘Your Right Heel‘ and ‘Baby, Maybe’.

The performance closed a few minutes after midnight.

The neighbors are complaining. You wouldn’t think an acoustic band could make much noise. But apparently we can.

was Garreth’s wry observation as the audience begged him for an encore.

In sum, the evening was well-spent and totally worth the trip to Bandra. The second half was good but I think the first few songs took away the show. Dischordian is great, live in action and I’ll gladly make the trek again to hear them. I would also like to hear their recorded songs to be able to compare it to their live performance. But my feeling is their real talent lies in the tangible connection they are able to make with their audience when they are right in front of them.

The BEP Movies n Music event at Cafe Goa

* Dischordian is on Facebook and Twitter. The Bombay Elektrik Projekt is on Facebook. My tweets of the event are hashtagged #bep.

Vasai Road: Love, Rum & Dancing At The *AlienPhyre Wedding

I’m just home from an amazing weekend. Actually it was only one evening but it packed in so much that it feels like I had an entire weekend.

My friend Reena got married yesterday to her longtime sweetheart Melroy. I met Reena through Adi and bonded with her at The Wall Project. If you visit the Tulsi Pipe Road stretch just to the left of Matunga Road station, you’ll still see our works of art.

Reena’s is the first one after the tree and is very much like her…pretty, graceful and romantic. It says,

You are one big fairytale waiting to happen.

Spitphyre's Fairytale

(more…)

Stupid Stupid Stupid – Album Launch Gig

It feels like in this time-starved city, it’s hard enough to fit in one interest (I have two) along with a career, family life, social life and love life. One prioritizes so I picked books & writing while a lot of other wonderful things got left behind. But every now and then you run into one of them and it’s like meeting someone you believed you could be in love with if there had only been the time.

I have never really been a part of the music scene barring the occasional Roger Waters or Mark Knopfler concert (okay, okay Bryan Adams as well…sheesh..). But that’s stuff that EVERYONE in this city does, it’s practically a ritual. But to truly enjoy something, you need to be able to experience as many variations of its existence as possible and not just the well-marketed ones. So I jumped at the opportunity to check into the music scene.

I was at Zenzi Mills last night with Swati and Sumanth for a gig by three bands – The Mavyns, Sridhar/Thayil and Medusa. I was there courtesy my friend AmZ who plays bass with Sridhar/Thayil. The event was to launch Stupid Stupid Stupid, an album compilation of various young and upcoming Indian musicians including the three bands that played. I got there too late for The Mavyns and didn’t catch much of Medusa so I’ll focus on Sridhar/Thayil since I was there through their entire performance.

Amit Ahuja (AmZ)

(more…)

I Style! – Spell Tail With A Tee

This is Kenneth Lobo. Apart from the fact that he organizes a really cool event or two each week (Movies! Poetry! Music!) as a part of The Bombay Elektrik Projekt, he looks just like a regular guy.

The Bombay Elektrik Projekt dude

The Bombay Elektrik Projekt dude

Ah, but appearances can be deceptive. Does this look like the face of a man who waltzes off to Ladakh on a whim? And breaks a toe while making tea? Ah, again. What’s he hiding? Turn around Ken, and let’s look at your back instead. (more…)

I Style! – Painter Girl

When the weather is dreary and my mood matches it, bright colours are the first thing I turn to, to cheer me up. Mumbai is normally sunny (barring those dull monsoon months) but the last few days have been a weird canvas of colourless insipidity. You can’t get too bright on a day like this.

I met Reena a.k.a. Spitphyre in a writers’ discussion and told her she was quite lovely. Of course, that day she was dressed like the pretty girl that she is. But her sense of colour blew me away during the Wall Project. Move over street artists, bright walls and graffitiers, Reena’s outfit puts everyone to shame.

Even on that already bright day, amidst a street awash with colour, Reena’s yellow tie-dye dungarees teamed with a postbox red tee-shirt were what stood out. If you’re thinking it was just a matter of tossing together some randomly colourful outfits, do check out her footwear – sexy, strappy flat sandals in the same shade of red.

Yellow and red painter girl

Yellow and red painter girl

Reena doesn’t have a loud voice or an imposing outline; she doesn’t have to! Her outfit itself was one brilliant exclamation point and she so made it work! Check out the matching sunglasses (in a Posh Beckham shows a smile pose).

Reena dungarees 4

As I keep saying, it isn’t just the colour or the fit, it’s cattitude that makes I Style! work. Here she is in a ‘don’t I look preggie’ pose. That’s on account of the red (matching again!) wallet tucked into the kangaroo style pocket in the front.

That's my fat wallet, not tummy, you dummy!

That's my fat wallet, not tummy, you dummy!

Finally, here’s the lady doing a Bangles number on the sidewalk. Need any more proof that she’s I Style!s latest star?

Walking like an Egyptian

Walking like an Egyptian

The Wall Project: Boycott Aladin, Canvas, Gair & London Dreams For Boorish Publicity Actions

About two months back, I wrote about the exciting experience of being part of The Wall Project in Mumbai. A BMC initiative, a number of citizens turned out to beautify and place their own mark on the wall running along Tulsi Pipe Road, between Mahim and Matunga Road.

Yesterday, we commenced on Phase II of the drive, this time taking the street art concept to Lower Parel, opposite Phoenix Mills and simultaneously pulling off the cause of education-through-art with The Alphabet Project at the Mahim end of the same road. I was waiting to collate all the photographs that are still appearing across the net, to write the post about it.

Then earlier this evening, we discovered that a different sort of vandalism had happened. Movie posters of Aladin, Canvas and Gair have turned up, pasted over the paintings, less than 24 hours later. I’m rusty on the legalities of these movie advertisements that appear all over the city. All I can say is that Wall Project was a BMC initiative and certainly not meant to be a backdrop for the marketing of Bollywood.

Posters

As outrage spreads across Twitter, even as I write, Ritesh Deshmukh and Sujoy Ghosh have been notified and have both issued apologies. But an apology I say, is not enough. It is enough of effort getting past the apathy of citizens to drive forward something like The Wall Project. Asking people to come out of their houses on a Sunday and spend a searingly hot day painting a rough wall for free is not an easy task. So much for the so-called indifference of this city, the numbers of people that turned out are testimony to the fact that Mumbaikers do indeed care. But after such an episode, would a citizen want to take the initiative?

My guess is that this will boil down to #wallproject becoming a popular Twitter topic for a few days; there will be a few media mentions about the outrage of social media users after a citizen drive and a clean-up PR effort with apologies by the people in the limelight. At some level, I expect some poor poster-paster will get yelled at or even lose his job. Is the onus of this to be laid on him? No, I say, the onus of this must be borne by the people who well understand the power of advertising and publicity, the people with the moolah, the people who have the most to gain from publicity, of any sort. Blaming the poster company or the person who put up the posters is not enough; the responsibility lies with the people who gain from the effort of the publicity. I say turn that idea around and make sure that the negative publicity hurts right where it should. Every person who stands to gain from the movies’ good collections holds responsibility for the end result and hence must bear the consequences of such an action.

See the before and after pictures courtesy @wanderblah

Aladin

ALADIN

Canvas

CANVAS

Gair

GAIR

London Dreams

LONDON DREAMS

If this is our city and its state is our concern, we have the right to stay outraged. I say, boycott the movies Aladin, Canvas, Gair and London Dreams, whose posters vandalize a community drive. Commissioning those posters not only hurts the sentiments of those whose painted walls have been covered, it cocks-a-snook at the Mumbaiker while saying,

To hell with your sensibilities. Advertising my movie is more important. I don’t care if a citizen effort that managed to raise such civic consciousness so successfully, is scuttled.

If you participated in The Wall Project or know someone who did, add value to that effort by passing this message on. If you are a blogger or a Twitter user, re-tweet this, blog about it, link to other posts about this. If you are reading this at all, you probably have access to the internet and a mobile phone. Use them to pass on the message. Spread the outrage, it needs to be felt.

I Style! – Going Places, Well-Equipped!

Landmark is having their annual sale! Of course you knew that if you are a book-lover in this city. But did you know that they don’t just have their regular (great!) books on sale but also a load of cool stuff as well? Check out what I picked up for the princely sum of Rs.199. That’s the lovely Dipali who showed me the bag and agreed to model it for I Style! as well.

Lets go places wide

EcoFrendz is a brand that has retailed bags from Landmark before but I’ve never seen some of these designs on display before. The bag I bought is khaki coloured cloth with a black cloth strap. Now normally, I’d pass off this stuff as being too stereotypical social worker stuff. But look at what’s on the side. It says ‘Let’s go places’ and it even has a real compass hanging down the side! I can see myself carrying this with jeans, salwar-kameezes as well as a skirt!

Lets go places zoom

Now I’m a sucker for toys like that, it’s kitschy, it’s cool without being flamboyant. How’s that for I Style!?!

I Style! – The BEST Man

I spotted Neil Dantas at The Wall Project and I just had to stop him to tell him just how I Style! he was!

i am the BEST

i am the BEST

Isn’t his tee-shirt absolutely fab? It’s Bambaiyya in a way that nothing else starts to match.For the uninitiated, BEST, an acronym for Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport, runs the Mumbai bus system. Every bus carries the BEST logo in Hindi, in white inside an oval white patch, painted on the side of the bright red bus. It’s one of Mumbai’s most recognizable logos.

The BEST man's tee-shirt

The BEST man's tee-shirt

The good news is that Neil is himself a designer and retails his creations from his website. Do drop into his place if you’d like to carry forward his style. Or as I’d like to call it, Neil’s I Style!

Update: The full form of BEST has been corrected (thank you, Peter!). Much apologies for the error; I can only blame it on the 4a.m. posting.

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