Friday, October 18, 2013

सावंतकाका


हा माणूस अमेरिकेत गेला आणि अमेरिकेचा झाला. तो अमेरिकेत कसा पोचला ह्या कथेचे आम्हाला पारायण झाले आहे. बाबा ती कथा आम्हाला रामायण किव्हा सिंदबादच्या सुरस कथा असल्यासारखे सांगत असत. म्हणूनच कदाचित माझ्या मनात मी ते इतर पौराणिक महापुरुषांसारखे असतील असं गृहीत धरलं होतं. मुकुट ढाल तलवार घेर असलेला झब्बा वगैरे. पण त्याला ह्या वेषात मी कधीच पाहिलं नाही. कदाचित आम्ही घाबरू म्हणून शस्त्रास्त्र घरीच ठेऊन येत असेल. मी लहान असताना तो पुण्याला आमच्या घरी अनेकदा यायचा. आल्यासरशी एक दोन आठवडे रहायचा देखील. तो आला की घरात प्रचंड दंगा असायचा. मोठ्यामोठ्यांनी बोलायचा आणि खूप बोलायचा. बाबांना खूप कौतुक होतं त्याचं. रक्ताचं असं काहीच नातं नव्हतं खरं तर. राजूकाकाचा शाळेतला मित्र. उंची बेताचीच. खरं सांगायचं तर बुटकाच होता. पण एखाद्या खेळाडूसारखी मजबूत ठेवण. आमच्याशी बॉक्सिंग करायचा. मस्ती करण्यात एक नंबर. आम्हाला दुसरं काय हवं असायचं? लव आणि कुशला लक्ष्मण काकांकडून काय मिळायचं माहित नाही पण आम्हाला मात्र सावंत काकाकडून वर्षानुवर्षं 'Toblerone' आणि 'Hershey Kisses' (मोदकासारखी दिसणारी) चॉकलेट मिळायची. चवीला काही खास नसायची (हा मोठेपणी आलेला खतरुडपणा. लहानपणी सगळच भारी वाटायचं) पण दिसायला इतकी भारी असायची की मी ती गावभर दाखवत फिरायचो. अमेरिकेहून आलेली चॉकलेट! पाचवीच्या वार्षिक परीक्षेनंतर आला तेव्हा माझ्यासाठी एक छोटा विडिओगेम घेऊन आला. त्या प्रकारामुळे तर माझं 'social status' फारच वधारलं. लोणीविके दामले आळी ते खुन्या मुरलीधरा पर्यंत सगळ्या पोरांमध्ये माझं नाव झालं. उन्हाळ्याची सुट्टी नुकतीच सुरु झाली असल्यामुळे timing पण perfect होतं. तासंतास boundary वर उभं करणारी मोठी मुलं आता मला opening batting द्यायला लागली. ती तीन महिन्यांची सुट्टी पण मी सावंत काकानी दिलेल्या गोष्टींमध्ये धरतो. त्याला स्वतःचं मुलबाळ नव्हतं हे मला फार उशिरा कळलं. सावंत काकूही क्वचितच भेटल्या. म्हणून तो आमचं घर सोडून इतर जगात काय करतो कसं वागतो कोण असतो ह्याचा माला काहीच अंदाज नव्हता. त्या काळी इंजिनिअर होणाऱ्या फार कमी लोकांपैकी तो होता म्हणे.

गोष्टींव्यतिरिक्त त्यानी अनेक मोलाचे सल्ले सुद्धा दिले. माझ्या डोक्यात उच्चशिक्षण घ्यावं का नाही आणि घेतलं तर कुठलं कुठे वगेरे वारे वहात होते. सावंत काका घरी आलेला असताना बाबांनी विषय काढला. माझं काही ठरत नव्हतं. आयुष्यातली अजून दोन वर्ष शिक्षणात घालवायची? काही फायदा होईल का? तेव्हा सावंत काका आवर्जून म्हणाला. शिकायची इच्छा असेल तर शिकून घे. शिक्षण कुठलं का असेना कधीच वाया जात नाही. पुढे जाऊन कुठे ना कुठेतरी त्याचा नक्कीच फायदा होतो. 

मी धोपट मार्गांनी अमेरिकेत जाऊन थडकलो. इथे गोऱ्यालोकांपेक्षा देशी लोकच जास्तं भेटले. आई बाबांना खूप कौतुक आहे मी इथे आल्याचं. पण मला माहितीये ह्या देशात येणं इथे रहाणं संसार थाटणं एवढं काही अवघड राहिलं नाही आता. त्यापेक्षा दिल्ली किंवा चेन्नईला जाऊन राहणं जास्त जिकिरीचं काम आहे. पण तीस चाळीस वर्षांपूर्वी जेव्हा सावंतकाका आणि त्याच्या बरोबरची मंडळी अमेरिकेत पोचली तेव्हा चित्र खूपच वेगळं असणार. त्यांना हा देश नवीन. ह्या देशाला ही लोकं नवीन. कोण कसा वागवेल सांगता येत नाही. प्रथा वेगळ्या बोली कळायला अवघड. शाकाहारी खाणं कुठे मिळेल? दिवाळीला आकाशकंदील कसा बनवायचा? तो बाहेर लावलेला चालेल का? हजार कोडी. 'अमेरिकेत हे मिळत नाही च्यायला!' सावंतकाका हे वाक्य चहा पिताना आंबे खाताना पत्ते खेळताना सारखा म्हणायचा. आता अमेरिकेत कोपऱ्याकोपऱ्यावर 'Indian Store' असतात आणि 'Vegetarian Option' बहुदा सगळीकडेच मिळतो. तेव्हा तसं काहीच नव्हतं. रोज काहीतरी नवीन शोधायचं रोज काहीतरी नवीन समजून घ्यायचं. सावंतकाकू एकदा आईला सांगत होत्या की बॉस्टन मधल्या एका grocery store मध्ये त्यांनी अचानक मराठी बोलण्याचा आवाज ऐकला आणि हातातलं सगळं सोडून त्या कोण बोलतंय हे बघायला धावल्या. रोमहर्षक जगणं वगैरे म्हणतात ते असंच असावं कदाचित. मी इथे मराठी लोकं avoid करत फिरतोय. इतकी झालीयेत.

मध्ये अनेक वर्ष सावंतकाकाशी काहीच संपर्क राहिला नाही. शिक्षण नोकरी संसार पोरंबाळं ह्यात पुरता गुमून गेलो होतो. लहानपणी अतिशय महत्वाच्या असलेल्या व्यक्ती मोठेपणी irrelevant होऊन जातात. बाबांकडून खबरबात कळत रहायची. पण भेट नाही. मी पुण्यात तेव्हा तो अमेरिकेत. तो अमेरिकेत तेव्हा मी पुण्यात. दोघंही अमेरिकेत असलो तरी अमेरिका केवढा मोठ्ठा देश (म्हणायला). वगैरे वगैरे. म्हणून काल त्याला भेटायला जाताना थोडं guilty वाटत होतं. पण थोडंच. बहुतांशी excitement होती. ज्यानी आपल्याला इतकं दिलं त्याला आपण काय देणार? तरी जाताना pastry घेऊन गेलो. आणि आयुष्यातला सर्वात मोठा धक्का बसून परत आलो.

झालं तसं काहीच नाही. काकानी घराचं दार उघडलं स्वागत केलं आत ये म्हणाला. पूर्वी आमच्या घरी घुमणारा त्याचा तो दमदार आवाज आता थोडा नमला होता. पण वयोमानानी ते व्हायचंच. किंवा त्यानी स्वतःहून हळू बोलायची सवय करून घेतली असेल. अमेरिकेत मोठ्यानी बोलणं असंस्कृतपणाचं समजतात. घर मात्र मोठं होतं आणि छान ठेवलं होतं. मधल्या खोलीत मोठा टी. व्ही. त्याच्या समोर एक आरामखुर्ची आणि कोच वगैरे. काका जाऊन आरामखुर्चीवर बसला. काकू आत स्वयंपाक करत होती ती बाहेर आली. माझ्या चौकश्या झाल्या. त्यांच्या चौकश्या झाल्या. पुण्याचा विषय निघाला अमेरिकेविषयी गप्पा झाल्या. काहीच वावगं झालं नाही पण काहीतरी विचित्र वाटत होतं. सगळं घर सगळ्या चर्चा पोकळ वाटत होत्या. त्यातला जीव निघून गेल्यासारख्या. टी. व्ही. वर पूर्ण वेळ मराठी मालिका चालू होत्या. जेवण झालं आणि मी निघालो. काकाला अच्छा म्हणालो तर टी. व्ही. बघत बघत 'अच्छा.. परत ये कधीतरी' म्हणाला. काकू दारापर्यंत आली. माझा पडलेला चेहरा बघून जाताना म्हणाली 'थोडे senile झालेत'. तिचं दुखः ती जाणे.

नंतर अनेक दिवस काकूचं एकच वाक्य डोक्यात घुमत बसलं होतं. काहीतरी विषय काढायचा म्हणून मी अमेरिकेत किती south Indian हॉटेलं झालीयेत असं काहीतरी म्हणत होतो. त्यावर काकू एकदम म्हणाली होती 'काय उपयोग आहे? हे जिथे जातील तिथे फक्त एकच डिश खातात.. मसाला डोसा!'. बाबांच्या नजरेत आणि पर्यायानी आमच्या पण नजरेत सावंतकाका म्हणजे काहीतरी नवीन जगावेगळं धडाडीचं करणारा. तो असा नीरस निर्जीव आणि routine कसा झाला असेल? पण खरं सांगायचं तर मी थोडा घाबरलो होतो. माझं पण असंच होईल असं मला खूप दिवसांपासून वाटतंय. तरुणपणी तुम्ही अमेरिकेत येता तेव्हा तो खूप मोठा बदल असतो. मजा असते. पण जसे इथे स्थायिक होता तश्या गोष्टी खूप सहज आणि सोप्या होऊन जातात. भारतात जशा रोजच्या छोट्या छोट्या लढाया असता तशा इथे नाहीत. दूधवाल्याशी लढ रिक्षावाल्याशी लढ. ह्या काही कौतुकाच्या गोष्टी नाहीत. पण लढणं म्हणजे नेहमी कटकटीचं असतं असं नाही. कधी मजेत हसत खेळत देखील असतं. अळणी आयुष्यात काहीतरी खळबळ. इथे सगळं शांत आणि सुरळीत. हजार activity आहेत इथे करायला. पण मला ह्या सगळ्या activity नोकरी सारख्याच वाटतात. मूळ आयुष्यापासून तुटलेल्या. तिथे काहीही घडलं तरी परत घरी आल्यावर तीच शांतता तेच routine. जो माणूस तरुणपणी इतका कमालीचा जगलाय त्याची चाळीशी आणि पन्नाशी अशी जावी? मग मेंदू झडणार नाहीतर काय होणार?

सावंतकाकानी दिलेल्या गोष्टींमध्ये हा 'shock' पण जमा करतो. आणि परत आपल्या मायदेशाकडे जाणारी वाट पकडतो!

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Ashadhatil ek diwas

It opens with a sound of thunder and lightning. Accompanied by deep sonorous plucking of the Veena. Yes, it is definitely Ashaadh. The play (directed by Atul Pethe) takes us back to 5th century India during the time of the Gupt Empire. It is the story of Kaviraj Kalidas himself. Through a minimal set, authentic looking costumes, beautiful stage lighting and some rich background music, the mood is set right for an epic performance. The play scores full marks as far as the technical aspects are concerned. And for the artistic expression, it scores much more. The actors move as if they are dancing, controlled and precise. Yet even the slightest movement is seeped in emotion. Almost every other frame is exquisitely choreographed. The language (originally written by Mohan Rakesh and translated in Marathi by Jyoti Subhash), especially specific words, are chosen from old Marathi which adds to the overall period effect. But the expressions and body language feels strikingly contemporary. This gives the story a timeless quality. The characters are few and layered. Each is given its own time and space to develop on stage. There is no rush (of course the impatient among the audience might think of this as boring, but then you don't go for such plays if you want cheap and fast entertainment).

[Spoiler Alert. If you can, watch the play. If not, read on.]

The main character Mallika (played sincerely by Parna Pethe) is one among us. Perhaps more virtuous but filled with all the same emotions. She is willing to nudge past orthodox traditions and live a happy and fun filled life with her love, Kalidas. He (played by Alok Rajwade) on the other hand is a poet to the core. Doesn't give a hoot about money, status, fame or what fellow villagers think of him.

Act I - He leaves...

A copy of Kalidas's Ritusamhar reaches the court of Emperor Chandragupta and he is awed by it. He offers the post of Rajkavi to Kalidas. After years of ridicule and being considered a general failure by all, suddenly, he gets the ultimate recognition. But being the person he is, Kalidas refuses the Emperor's offer. Mallika realizes that this can be a turning point in his career. He can go from being a local nature poet to a world renowned one, read by millions. She makes him promise that he will go to Ujjain. Even if that means leaving her, the village and all that he holds dear. Why does she do it? It is considered a magnanimous, self-sacrificing gesture by all. But is it really? Why do we want the people we love to achieve what we want? He almost begs to stay, but is made to leave. And so he does.

Act II - He returns...almost

Many years go by and Kalidas does not return. Mallika is left solitary, spending her life looking after her sick mother Ambika (played by Jyoti Subhash). Kalidas writes many great epics during this time and news of his work reaches Mallika through traders passing by. She worships every word he has written and secretly wishes that one day he will return. In the meanwhile Vilom (played in characteristic style by Om Bhutkar), starts courting Mallika and wins the confidence of her mother. He is kind of a anti-thesis of Kalidas. Always bitter, always inconsiderate, but seldom wrong. In another part of the world Kalidas has married into the royal family and has become a man of great power. Once, while travelling to take over the reigns of a distant land he stops in his old village. Mallika is thrilled, but for reasons then unknown. he leaves without meeting her. She is heart-broken and though she maintains her outward aloofness she now starts to lose hope.

Act III - He returns...but too late

The lust for power has taken its toll on Kalidas. A time comes when he can take it no more. He runs away from that life and wanders in the wilderness for many days. Weary and defeated he comes to Mallika to find solace. But time has forced her to move on. She has married [Update: I misunderstood this part in the play. Thanks Krutarth and Tushar for the correction] is immutably tied to Vilom now, having a child from him. Both are unhappy but the unhappiness has grown from the seeds of their own mistakes. If you wish to leave your small world to explore the vast world outside, you have to accept the fact that you may loose both. And to do this for the wish of someone else, even if that someone else is a person dear to you, is stupid if not criminal.

Overall I felt it was a wonderful experience. This kind of theater is not seen much. Perhaps because it takes a lot of effort on the part of the audience also to sink into the world that the director has created. But the show was packed and many more will be. It is heartening to known that such audience still exists.

[Photo courtesy http://www.mytheatrecafe.com]

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Inheritance of Loss


27 hours ago we were in our home-town celebrating Diwali with our family and friends. Pleasant Indian evening weather filled with brightly lit lanterns and tasty festive food. Now, we are driving down to an empty home in this cold and dark, frost filled night in Boston. Is this what it feels to be uprooted?

My sister had said something like this to me when we were travelling back to the US from India. I understood what she meant, but only slightly. My stint in the US didn't last very long. She stayed there for more than a decade. Understanding grows deeper with time.

This book opens with a retired judge living out the rest of his years in a secluded bungalow in Kalimpong. A bungalow with a spectacular view of the Kanchanjunga. His life slowly unfolds throughout the book.

The solitude became a habit, the habit became the man, and it crushed him into a shadow.

First i felt he was boring. That turned into interest. Then anger. Disgust. And finally into a helpless sadness. His thoughts are locked in a hell he himself created through stubborn denial of reality. He ends up creating logical supports for his actions which seem justifiable in theory but in fact, hide strong prejudices towards others.

This was why he had retired. India was too messy for justice; it ended only in humiliation for the person in authority. Give these people a bit and one could find oneself supporting the whole family forever after, a constantly multiplying family, no doubt, because they might have no food, the husband might be blind and with broken legs, and the woman might be anemic and bent, but they’d still pop out an infant every nine months. If you let such people get an inch, they’d take everything you had—the families yoked together because of guilt on one side, and an unending greed and capacity for dependance on the other—and if they knew you were susceptible, everyone handed their guilt along so as to augment yours: old guilt, new guilt, any passed-on guilt whatever.

We all have our insecurities, our complexes. But when we are cut from people we know and like for too long, these negatives grow on us. And they can turn a simple, average, common, person into a monster. And the victim of the monstrosities that average people commit are the people closest to them.

For crimes that took place in the monstrous dealings between nations, for crimes that took place in those intimate spaces between two people without a witness, for these crimes the guilty would never pay. There was no religion and no government that would relieve the hell.

Then there is Biju. Son of a cook living in a hut outside the judges's bungalow. Desperate to go to the US like the judge had been years ago, to go to England.

In this room it was a fact accepted by all that Indians were willing to undergo any kind of humiliation to get into the States. You could heap rubbish on their heads and yet they would be begging to come crawling in….

The son fighting for his survival as an illegal in the US. Working and sleeping in kitchens of Harlem. Underpaid, overworked. The father unhappy and longing for his son, yet proud of his achievement.

This way of leaving your family for work had condemned them over several generations to have their hearts always in other places, their minds thinking about people elsewhere; they could never be in a single existence at one time. How wonderful it was going to be to have things otherwise.

There are many other characters. Sai, granddaughter of the judge who arrives at his doorstep on day, orphaned. Their neighbours Noni and Lola, living in a colonial hangover, eating oyster mushrooms for breakfast. Gyan, Sai's maths tutor and many more. These diverse characters come from totally different backgrounds and living in totally separate worlds, yet they are next to each other every day. Class divide, religion divide, sex divide, every possible prejudice is laid bear by the author beautifully. Though it began slowly this book was a treat to read once i got involved in the story. The trick, i guess,  is to find something to relate to with every character.

“Time should move,” Noni had told her. “Don’t go in for a life where time doesn’t pass, the way I did. That is the single biggest bit of advice I can give you.”

“He was the real hero, Tenzing,” Gyan had said. “Hilary couldn’t have made it without sherpas carrying his bags.” Everyone around had agreed. Tenzing was certainly first, or else he was made to wait with the bags so Hilary could take the first step on behalf of that colonial enterprise of sticking your flag on what was not yours.

"He hated his tragic father, his mother who looked to him for direction, had always looked to him for direction, even when he was a little boy, simply for being male."

“You are sure you want to go back??” Mr. Kakkar said alarmed, eyes popping. “You’re making a big mistake. Thirty years in this country, hassle-free except for the bitch-witch, of course, and I have never gone back. Just even see the plumbing,” he indicated the sound of the gurgling toilet behind him. “They should put their plumbing on their flag, just like we have the spinning wheel—top-class facility in this country.
The universe wasn’t in the business of justice. That had simply been his own human conceit—until he learned better.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sparks


About judging others and staying balanced.

It is not everyday that you learn something new about yourself. Even if the discovery is not very gratifying. Most of the times it is not, they are embarrassing in fact. But the fact that you realized them makes for tremendous satisfaction. How that realization comes about is not always clear. Perhaps it has something to do with constantly pulling oneself out of the rut and being generally inquisitive. It might very well be just random. I recently had two such sparks of wisdom shine upon me. One at the deep subconscious level and the other at the very physical end of the spectrum.
Whenever i interact with a new person the first thing that i do is judge. Not a long complicated assessment of the human being in front of me, but a split second judgement coming from the most ancient part of the brain, telling me just one thing. Is this person better than me? If i think this person is better than me, then i become a bit defensive. I tread cautiously. If i decide, by whatever yardstick that my primitive brain applies, that i am better than the person i am talking to, then i am a bit more relaxed. I take it easy. Mind you, i am unaware of all of this while it is happening. It is only by chance that my mind wonders on to itself and i get to witness my subconscious in action. Perhaps it is a manifestation of the primal fight or flight instinct. Appropriately mellowed down by our safe (relative to a jungle) and secure (relative to hunting-gathering) lifestyle. So instead of a bearing of teeth and clinching of fists in readiness to fight i might just add a slight condescension to my tone, and establish my superiority (self-proclaimed). And instead of fleeing full blast i might nod my head a little more vigorously in agreement, and concede my inferior position. Perhaps there are some advantages to all this. After all nature in all its wisdom has given us (or is it just me?) this instinct. But i wonder how it would be if i could treat everyone i meet as my equal. At least to begin with. Give the benefit of doubt to everybody before i start judging them. It will be mighty hard.
Me: He is shorter, less smart, less intelligent perhaps. I can take him on.
Myself: No. He is your equal. Don't think you are superior to him.
Me: Wow he is a Rockstar!  I look like a pitiable idiot in front of him.
Myself: No. You are his equal. Don't think you are inferior to him.


I am a naturally left handed person. So any task that needs control, deft or power is delegated to the left side of the body. So much so that even seemingly symmetric actions like walking, running or riding a bike are actually done led by the strong side and the weak side kind of just tags along. Once you realize that your body is favouring one side, you can feel it almost every minute of your waking life. It is a feeling of imbalance. I realized it when i was playing the drums and my right hand just could not keep up with my left. Or when i am running and my left foot follows a perfect path while my right foot is just trying to keep up. Again there might be some evolutionary advantage in being lopsided  but i don't get it. I am trying to restore my balance one action at a time.
Brushing my teeth with the weak hand...not easy
Putting the key in a keyhole and turning....not easy
Eating with the weak hand....not atall easy

....

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Ship of Theseus


Before I begin, let me say this up front. Ship of Theseus is a weird movie. Yes. I believe any film which starts with a huge human eyeball filling the screen and bobbling around can be considered weird. In fact, any film which does not have the likes of Salman Khan or Govinda in it has a potential of being weird. Some how these heros have the ability to kill any creative urges (read shaky camera angles, off focus frames, random scenes which don't really go anywhere) that the director might have. But just because it is weird does not mean it is not good. I liked it a lot (says something about me now does it?).

Trying to understand what the creators of this film were trying to 'say' through it does not make much sense. So i will not go there. Everyone will look at it through their own eyes and their unique circumstances. To me, it seemed like a series of questions. Questions meant not to get definite and unambiguous answers but to wonder, ponder and explore our lives and minds. It starts with this one.

The Ship of Theseus, also known as Theseus's paradox, is a paradox that raises the question of whether an object which has had all its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object.

Is the whole just a sum of its parts? Or is there something more to it? This is true about most of the human body as well. Our cells are constantly dying and getting formed. So perhaps my hand is not the same as the one i had last year. So am i a new person now? Aristotle was an intelligent man. He proposed this. Every object is made of some materials, granted. But that is not all there is to it. It also has a design. It has a purpose for which it is built. In this case the materials changed but the design and purpose remained the same.

Fascinating how this might apply to us and not just inanimate objects. When do we say we have changed? With time? Sure, but that changes us only physically. Like this ship we are talking about. Ever heard someone say that they feel like a new person? Ever got that feeling yourself? Perhaps that is related more to purpose than materials. If i find a purpose, a passion, in this lifetime i will surely be a changed person. When someone says they don't feel like themselves anymore perhaps they might have lost their sense of purpose.

All the three main characters in the movie experience certain things which change them. Physically as well as mentally.

There was a photographer in the movie who asked me an interesting question. If we create something by accident and it turns out to be great. Should we take credit for it? A photo, a painting, a piece of code. The character in the movie did not want to take credit for the great shots that she got accidentally. She thinks that way she will loose control over her art. I wouldn't mind it so much. I guess art is anyways a little beyond control. So whatever you do or create you cannot take the whole credit for it. But it is also unique to you. If you ask someone else to do the same thing it will turn out different. So you cannot discredit it completely either.

The monk asked me how far am i willing to go to uphold my values. Values are tricky contraptions. The trickiness comes from the fact that they need to be consistent. If they are not consistent they are not really values. If you follow traffic rules, then you need to follow them even when you are terribly late for the most important meeting of your life. This monk takes it to the extreme. By his standards i don't have any values at all. We say we will not steal, stealing is bad. But in the face of intolerable hunger, will it hold? Should it hold? We find the easiest way out of a situation and say chalta hain yaar. There is ample time to justify our actions later on. The problem with that is we become inconsistent and confused ourselves. Meaning and purpose become harder to find. Is it better to be consistent even if you might be wrong, or is it better to be haphazard and perhaps get it right?

The third character was a typical one. Fed up with the 'social work' in his family he goes straight and hard for the mullah. He is in a hospital for a surgery where he sees a shocking incident of a poor helpless person being swindled big time. He finds himself fighting for that person. But fighting for someone else is not easy. For one, how do you know its over? That you have won? Your definition of winning might differ from the person you are fighting for. Is it best to accept the victim's judgement in this regard, even if you know it is wrong?

But i guess most of us won't be bothered by this question much. We usually don't find ourselves fighting for anyone but our friends and family, do we? :P


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Window


Why are we always either too young or too old for something?

I have often heard older folk say that they want to be child-like. Without a worry in the world. Most kids cannot wait till they grow up. No homework and freedom to do as they please, they think. Neither is of course true. Yes, kids live in the moment and don't worry about future as such. But they are not fearless. Perhaps much more fearful of simple things like darkness, not getting food or being away from mommy and daddy. Yes older people don't have to go to school. But they still have homework (married people will know this to be quiet true).

When we are young we are filled with prejudices and complexes. Am I good looking? Am I smart enough? Will they accept me this group? Will they laugh at me? Will this girl ever look at me? Why is this guy staring at me? These insecurities are formed at birth and they keep piling up. No matter how great or wonderful and free your upbringing has been, these are growing up pains that everyone just has to go through. Some get it rough, some not so much, some overcome them early, some take long. With time and age we slowly shed them. But that same time and age that helps us get over these limitations pulls us towards another inevitable one. Physical. Slowly you loose your vigour, your energy, your health. It is simply, physically impossible to learn and do many things as you grow older. This might sound pessimistic and unreal because there are millions of quotes and poems and stories to tell you that 'young at heart' is what matters. Yes it might be true that it is what matters, but these limitations are also very very real.

So there is this window of opportunity, so to say, when you have over come most of your inhibitions, your fears and insecurities and your physical limitations are yet to set in. For some it might be 25 to 35. For others something else. But this is time to do great stuff. Try something new. Be passionate about things. Do something stupid. Work hard. Take some risk. Be relentless. What ever you do, do not crib afterwards that you missed this opportunity. I have seen and met uncles who missed it then and are stuck trying to recreate that feeling at daru parties. And there is perhaps nothing more pitiable.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Rebel



दिग्दर्शकांनी ज्या प्रकारे चौकटीतील अवकाशाचा वापर केला आहे त्या मुळे जी निगेटिव स्पेस निर्माण होते ती आपल्याला बरच काही सांगायचा प्रयत्न करतीये. जी लोकं चार चौघात न घाबरता अशी वाक्य बोलू शकतात त्यांचा मला आदर वाटतो. अर्भात शोर्ट फिल्म क्लब च्या मागील भागाची थीम 'Spaces' अशी होती. मी जरा बिचकूनच होतो. अपेक्षे प्रमाणे मला ओ चा ठो काही कळलं नाही. अनेक अगम्य शोर्ट फिल्म एका मागून एक झाल्या. कधी झोप लागली कळलं नाही. जाग आली तेव्हा कोणीतरी भरगोस पांढरी दाढी असलेले इसम वरील प्रमाणे अव्हगड वाक्य बोलत होते (काही लोकं त्यांना समर नखाते सर अस म्हणत होते. असतील.) त्या नंतर 'Local' नावाची फिल्म दाखवली. ती मात्र मला कळण्यासारखी होती. फारच सहज सोपी आणि छान बनवली होती. फिल्म नंतर त्याचे दिग्दर्शक भरत पवार ह्याच्याशी संवाद झाला. कुठल्या तरी मजेशीर प्रेक्षकानी त्यांना विचारलं की तुम्ही असा बोल्ड विषय हाताळायचं का ठरवलंत? त्यावर नखाते सर म्हणाले सेक्स मध्ये काय बोल्ड आहे? तो माणूस गप्प बसला. त्या नंतर उस्ताद आमीर खांच्या वरची फिल्म्स डिविजन नी बनवलेली एक फिल्म लावली. ती तर फारच कमाल होती. त्यांचं जबरदस्त गाणं तर ऐकायला मिळालंच आणि खऱ्या आयुष्यात ते काय चीज होते हे पण कळलं. आपली आर्थिक परिस्थिती आपल्या मान सम्मान आणि नावाच्या बरोबरीची नसणं ही गोष्ट काही लोकांना लज्जास्पत किव्हा मानहानीकारक वाटू शकते. पण ते अश्या विचारांमध्ये अडकलेले दिसत नाहीत. उलट कलेचं वरदान मिळाल्या मुळे स्वताला खूप भाग्यवान समजतात. कमाल.


ह्या वेळेच्या शोर्ट फिल्म्स ची थीम 'Rebel'  अशी होती. म्हणून मला स्वतःकडून ते समजण्याच्या जरा जास्ती अपेक्षा होत्या. मला पोचायला पाच मिनिटं उशीर झाला आणि पहिली फिल्म आठ मिनिटांची होती. हि हि. पण शेवटची तीन मिनिटं पण solid होती. एका शाळेत मुलांना २ + २ = ५ असं शिकवत असतात. एका मुलाला हे पटत नसतं म्हणुन तो प्रश्ण विचारतो. उत्तर तर मिळत नाहीच पण धमक्या आणि मारहाणीन त्याच्या डोक्यात हे चुकीचे विचार ठोकले जातात. इतर मुलांनी तर कधीच भीती मुळे हे समीकरण मान्य केलं असतं. हुकुमशाही आणि totalitarianism (माझच खरं) मुळे लोकांची मनं कशी मारली जाऊ शकतात हे त्यांना दाखवायचं होतं कदाचित. असो 'Two and Two' चा शेवट अगदीच वाईट केला नाही हे आपलं नशीब.



'आमुख' मध्ये आपल्या वृद्ध पित्याची काळजी घेणारी एक शिक्षिका दाखवली होती. वडील जातात आणि अंत्य विधींची वेळ येते. घर चालवणे वडील आणि लहान भावाची काळजी घेणे हे सर्व तिनी एकटिनी  केलं असतं. पण तिला चितेच्या जवळ उभं पण रहायची परवानगी नसते. खोलीत कोंडून ठेवतात. ती बंड करते आणि भावाच्या बरोबरीनी चितेला अग्नी देते. शेवटच्या दृश्यात असं दिसतं की तिच्या वर्गातली सगळी मुलं निघून जाऊन एकच उरला आहे. पण ती त्याला तितक्याच उत्साहानी शिकवत आहे. असा आगाऊ पणा केला की त्याचा त्रास तुम्हाला होणारच. पण तरीही काही आगाऊ पणा शहाणपणाचे असावेत.

'विठ्ठल' हा प्रकार तर फारच अप्रतिम होता. विठ्ठलचे आजोबा जातात. त्याची अजिबात इच्छा नसताना त्याला बळजबरी पकडून त्याचं मुंडण करतात. त्याला माहित असतं की डोक्यावर केस नसल्या मुळे शाळेत त्याची खूप टिंगल होणारे. मोठ्या माणसांना त्याचं महत्व कळत नाही. केसच कापलेत ना? उगवतील परत दोन महिन्यात. त्या वयात मुलं काहीही सहन करू शकतात पण इतर मुलांकडून हेटाई होण्याला ते सर्वात घाबरतात. त्याला प्रचंड राग आलेला असतो आणि तो वेड्या वेड्या सारखं वागत असतो. अश्या प्रथांमध्ये मुलांना ओढून आणण्यात काही अर्थ असतो का? विषय गंभीर असला तरी सादरीकरण खूपच हलकं फुलकं ठेवलं होतं. दिग्दर्शक विनू चोलीपारंबीळ (मराठी नसून मराठी फिल्म बनवली !) ना कोणी तरी विचारलं की मुलं आणि प्राण्यांनकडून अभिनय करून घेणं सर्वात आवगड असतं असं म्हणतात. तुमचा काय अनुभव? ते म्हणले ती त्या छोट्या मुलाची भूमिका करणाऱ्या मुलाचा पहिल्या दिवशी पासून त्यांच्यावर इतका विश्वास होता की तो त्यांचं सगळं ऐकायचा. विश्वास असेल की बऱ्याच गोष्टी सोप्या होतात असं दिसतंय.



'पिस्तुल्या' नी तर सगळ्याचं मन जिंकलं. पारधी समाजामधला एक मुलगा ज्याला शाळेत जायची जबरदस्त इच्छा असते. पण इतर लोकं त्याला गचंडीला पकडून चोरी च 'training' देतात. शेवटच्या दृश्यात असं दाखवलंय की तो त्याच्या बहिणीसाठी शाळेचा गणवेश चोरतो. फिल्म संपल्यावर दिग्दर्शक नागराज मंजुळे ह्यांना पहिला प्रश्ण आला की हे त्यांच्या व्यक्तिगत अनुभवातून आलंय का? मला शॉकच बसला. पण नागराज ह्यांनी शांतपणे हो असं सांगितलं. त्यांच्या सगळ्या नातेवाहीकांमध्ये ते सर्वात जास्त शिकलेले. बाकी बहुतेक जण दुसरी तिसरी परेंतच. शिक्षणाची जबरदस्त इच्छा होती म्हणुनच शिकू शकले. माझ्या सारखं  'by default' graduate झाले नव्हते. त्यांचे ही फिल्म बनवतानाचे किस्से ऐकताना passion म्हणजे काय असू शकतं ह्याची जाणीव झाली. त्याची 'Fandry' नावाची नवीन फिल्म येत आहे. त्यासाठी त्यांना शुभेच्छा !!  

Monday, June 24, 2013

ध्रुव

टेबलावर फाइल्सचा गठ्ठा पडला होता पण ध्रुवला तो दिसत नव्हता. त्याच्या डोक्यात वेगळीच चक्र फिरत होती. फोनच्या आवाजानी तो परत माणसात आला. बॉस बोलवत होता. पटकन त्यांनी टेबलावरचे पाय काढून टेबलाखाली ठेवलेल्या बुटांमधे खोचले.  तडख चालत गेला आणि नेहमीसारखं धाडकन बॉसच्या केबिनचं दार उघडलं. बॉस फेसबुक चेक करत होता. घाबरून त्यांनी पटकन विंडो बंद केली. कश्याला घाबरला? तुम्ही असं म्हणू शकता की तो एकदम आलेल्या आवाजाला घाबरला. पण माझा असा अंदाज आहे की तो एकदम आलेल्या ध्रुवला जास्ती घाबरला. ध्रुवला जवळपास सगळीच लोकं थोडंफार घाबरायची. तसा वागायला बोलायला चांगला होता. दिसायलाही काही भीतीदायक नव्हता. पण का कोणास ठाऊक त्याच्याशी बोलताना लोकं बेसावद पकडली जायची. तो मुद्दामून असं काहीच करायचा नाही.

आई : काल जोशी काकूंना काय म्हणाला माहितीये का? तुम्ही कायम उशिरा का येता? काकांशी सारखं भांडत असता म्हणुन का? बिचाऱ्या गडबडून गेल्या एकदम. 
बाबा : पोच नाहीये कार्ट्याला.

पण ध्रुव फटकळ नव्हता. कारण लोकांना असं गार करण्यात त्याला काहीच आनंद नव्हता. उलट लोकांना तो आवडावा आणि त्याचं कौतुक करावं असाच कायम त्याचा प्रयत्न असायचा. पण नकळत घडणाऱ्या गोष्टी बदलणार तरी कश्या? चुणचुणीत किव्हा तुणतुणित असे शब्द त्याच्यासाठी अगदी योग्य आहेत. जन्माला येताना जी धक्का बुक्की करावी लागते ती काही लोकं कायमच चालू ठेवतात. त्याच्या जीवाला स्वस्थपणा माहित नव्हता. त्याला सगळच करायचं होतं. पण एक असं काहीच नाही. एखादी नवीन योजना मनात आली की वेड लागल्या सारखा त्याच्या मागे लागायचा. लहान मुलं कस नवीन खेळणं पाहिलं की जग विसरून त्याच्या मागे धावतात तसं. पण ती गोष्ट करायला लागला की त्या मधला रस कमी कमी होत जायचा. उसाचा रस जसा गटगट प्यायल्यावर संपत जातो तसा (हे त्याचे शब्द माझे नाहीत !) मग काही काळ खूप चिडचिडा व्हायचा. नवीन काहीतरी शोधायची धडपड सुरु करायचा. अश्या वेळेला त्याच्या बायकोला तो असह्य व्हायचा. आता मी काय करू? ह्याचा कंटाळा आलाय त्याच्यात काही मजा नाही अशी भुणभुण लावायचा. बरं त्याची बायको स्वयम सुखी. तिला ह्या गोष्टी कळायच्याच नाहीत. ती म्हणायची तुला हवं ते कर. मग त्याची अजून चिडचिड व्हायची. ती उदास आहे नवीन गोष्टी करायला आवडत नाहीत असं वाटायचं त्याला. आणि तिला कदाचित हे कळत नसावं की ह्याला सारखं काहीतरी नवीन का शोधावं लागतं. ध्रुव खूप विचार करायचा. रात्र रात्र जागायचा. त्याच्या बायकोला तिची झोप खूप लाडकी होती. कधी कधी मध्य रात्री तिला उठवून त्याला आत्ताच झालेली कविता ऐकवायचा. 

सवईचे गुलाम सगळे. श्वासांना इथे किंमत नाही. 
वर्षामागे वर्षे लपली. क्षणांची तर गणनाच नाही. 

थोडक्यात सांगायचं तर त्यांच्या लग्नाची वाट लागली होती. पण त्याला ती आवडायची. ती बरोबर असताना त्याची चुळबुळ थोडी कमी व्हायची. पण हे तो कधी बोलू शकला नाही. 

ऑफिस मधे मात्र तो काहीही बोलायचा. इतर लोकांना वाटते तशी नोकरी जाण्याची फालतू भीती त्याला कधीच वाटली नाही. खूप काम करायचा. स्वतःचं. इतरांचं देखील. पटपट बोलायचा. दुसरा हळुहळु बोलत असेल तर त्याला सारखा तोडून प्रश्ण विचारून पटकन माहिती उकळायचा. जबरदस्तीचं का होईना पण ऑफिस मधे एक ध्येय असतं. कदाचित म्हणुनच त्याला इथे नेहमी इतकं दिशाहीन वाटत नसावं. उत्साहाची तर त्याच्याकडे कधीच कमतरता नव्हती. ऑफिस मधल्या इतरांना तो खूप भारी वाटायचा. एखाद्या गोष्टीची गरज नसेल तर कसा बिनधास्त आणि निर्भीड वावर शक्य होतो तसाच त्याचा ऑफिस मधे असायचा. सगळे जेव्हा stock options, in hand, LTA वगेरे बोलत असायचे तेव्हा ध्रुव चेस मधल्या खेलींचा विचार करत असायचा. सर तुमचं चुकतय, असं सगळ्यान समोर बॉसला म्हणायचा. आणि बॉसही गप्पं बसायचा कारण बहुतेक वेळा ध्रुवचं बरोबर असायचं. असही नोकरीवरून काढण्यापेक्षा त्याला कंटाळा येउन तो नोकरी सोडण्याची शक्यता जास्ती होती. ध्रुव ला अंधाराची खूप भीती वाटायची. शॉवरमधे साबण लावलेला असतानापण तो डोळे मिणमिणते उघडे ठेवायचा. एकटेपणाची त्याच्याहून जास्त भीती वाटायची. आजूबाजूला चार लोकं पाहिजेत. ओळखीची नसतील तरी चालेल. नुसती असली पाहिजेत. आपण कसे दिसतो, आपण हुशार आहोत का सामान्य, आपलं बरं चाललय का नाही, आपण चांगले आहोत का वाईट, हे इतरांच्या प्रतीक्रीयेत्न आपल्याला सतत जाणवत असतं. आत्मविश्वासाची कमतरता असेल कदाचित पण ध्रुव ला ह्या प्रतिक्रिया सारख्या हव्या असायच्या. आणि त्या न विचारता मिळाव्या असं पण वाटायचं. ऑफिस मधे त्याची ही गरज पुर्ण व्हायची. घरात दुर्दैवानी तसं व्हायचं नाही. तिची आणि ह्याची लय कधी जुळलीच नाही. शेवटी शेवटी तर दोघं एकाच घरात दोन वेगळ्या खोल्यांमध्ये राहायला लागले. त्याची चरफड तशीच चालू राहिली. इतकं शोधूनही त्याच्या आयुष्याला दिशा लाभली नाही. आई वडील काय विचार करून नावं ठेवतात कोणास ठाऊक?

कधी कधी असं वाटतं त्यांनी आयुष्यभर जे शोधलं ते एका भिंती पलीकडे होतं. पण ती भिंत कधी त्याला पाडता आली नाही.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

राही

ह्या मुलीला कसलीच घाई नव्हती. शाळेत जायची नाही. डबा खायची नाही. नोकरी शोधायची नाही. लग्न करायची नाही. ह्या धावपळीच्या जगात अश्या मुलीनी काय करावं? राहीनी शाळा केली कॉलेज केलं संसार केला. बटाट्याची भजी उत्तम केली. राहीनी बरंच काही केलं नाही. ती कधी चंद्रावर चालली नाही. चित्र काढली नाहीत. सिग्नल मोडले नाहीत (कारण तिला कसलीच घाई नव्हती !). झाडावर चढून चिंचा पाडल्या नाहीत. जे काही केलं ते सहज केल. जे काही करायचं राहिलं ते सहज राहिलं. इतक्या सगळ्या गोष्टी केल्या नाहीत तरी तिला कोणी आळशी म्हणल्याच आठवत नाही.

आई: अग पटकन अवर. शाळेला उशीर होईल !
बाबा: काही उपयोग नाही. ती तिच्याच वेगाने धावते.

राही कायम वेळेवर शाळेत पोचायची. ऑफिस मधे जायची तेव्हा वेळेवर जायची. पण 'सब चीज time to time होनी चाहिये' अशी पण नव्हती. तिला गजरानी कधीच जाग यायची नाही. गजर हा प्रकारच तिला आवडायचा नाही. झोप संपली की उठायला तिला आवडायचं. राही खूप जोरात पळायची. आणि गाडी तितकीच हाळू चालवायची. Solid athlete होती. पाऊसात पळायला तिला विशेष आवडायचं. का कोणास ठाऊक? एका लयीत पळायची. तासंतास. गणित ह्या विषयात तिला काहीच रस नव्हता. तरी CA झाली. काहीतरी व्हायचं तर हे होऊ असा विचार केला असेल कदाचित. तिच्या संपूर्ण व्यक्तिरेखेत जर कश्याचा पुर्ण अभाव असेल तर तो महात्वाकांषेचा होता. पण हेच राहीच्या सर्वात जवळच्या मैत्रिणी विषयी म्हणता येणार नाही. तिला fighter pilot बनायचं होतं. वेगाची नशा होती म्हणे तिला. महात्वाकांषेची तिच्यात काहीच कमतरता नव्हती. Air force मध्ये जाणं जमलं नाही पण बाईक मात्र पिसाटासारखी चालवायची. राही कधीच तिच्या मागे बसायची नाही. आणि ती कधी राहीच्या गाडीत बसायची नाही. कारण इतक्या हाळू चालणाऱ्या गाडीत ती वैतागून जायची. म्हणुन एकाच ठिकाणाहून निघून एकाच ठिकाणी जायचं असेल तरी दोघी दोन वाहनांवर जायच्या. आपापल्या वेगानं. मला हे कायम कुतूहल वाटायचं की इतक्या भिन्न स्वभाव आणि आवडीनिवडीच्या दोन व्यक्ती भेटल्यावर काय बोलत असतील? पण त्यांच्यात संवाद होत असावा. कारण राहीचे आई वडील गेल्या नंतर तिला खऱ्या अर्थानं ओळखणारं अस ही मैत्रीण सोडून दुसरं कोणीच उरलं नव्हतं.

राहीचं तिच्या नवऱ्याशी कधीच पटलं नाही. पण तरीही तिनी संसार केला. गणितात रस नसतानाही CA केलं तसंच बहुतेक. तो पण CA. बोलायला विषय बरेच असावेत. पण काम सोडून त्यांच्यात काहीच बोलणं होयचं नाही. सुरवातीच्या काही वर्षात तिनी खूप प्रयत्न केला. त्यांनी ही केला असेल. पण नंतर तिला लक्ष्यात आलं. त्यांना एकमेकांची फक्त सवय होऊ शकते. साथ नाही. तो मितभाषी. तरीही दुसर्यांनी त्याच्या मनातलं ओळखून त्याच्याशी वागण्याची अपेक्षा ठेवणारा. त्याची चूक नसेल कदाचित. लहानपणा पासून हव्या त्या गोष्टी न विचारता मिळाल्यामुळे सवय लागली असेल. आणि इतर सगळ्यांनी आपल्याला हवं तसं वागायला कोणाला नको असतं? तो चारचौघानसारखा होता. ही वेगळी होती. दोष कोणाला देणार? आपण स्वताला खूप महत्वाचे समजतो. कुठेतरी बाकी लोकांनी पण आपल्याला महत्व द्यावं असं वाटत असतं. As he says "Most people don't understand that God cast them as extras in this movie". पण आपल्याला हिरो हिरोईन इतकं महत्व हावं असतं. आणि इतर लोकांपेक्षा ते आपल्याच बायको आई वडील मुलांकडून उकळणं सोपं असतं. पण राहीला हे काहीच समजायचं नाही. तिनी कधी उगिच महत्व मागितलं नाही. आणि ते द्यायला ही तिला कधी जमलं नाही. ज्या ज्या लोकांनी तिच्याकडून अश्या अपेक्षा ठेवल्या त्या त्या लोकांशी तिचे संबंध सहजच कमी होत गेले. दुर्दैवानी तिचं लग्न देखील ह्याच गटात मोडतं.


खरं तर ती फक्त तिच्यासारख्या व्यक्ती बरोबरच संसार करू शकली असती. पण तिच्यासारखी लोकं असतात कुठे ह्या जगात ?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Amour

I am frightened by old age. That is the one thing that really scares me. Not death, but old age.

Have you ever seen a old couple sitting in a park? Or crossing a road? What do you think of when you see them?

You think they are cute. Perhaps they are. So used to each other. There are no sudden movements, no unanticipated actions. A lifetime spent together guarantees that. But they were not always like this. Once, so many years ago, they had also met for the first time. They must have tentatively asked each others preferences. Guessed what he or she might like or not like. Carefully planned vacations which might have gone terribly wrong. Unexpected journeys, memories of which have lost all their details with time, but not their essence. They must have fought and argued with each other. Vicious misunderstanding which perhaps would have more than once threatened their very relationship. They must have dreamed of their perfect home and chosen a sofa, a dinner table for it together. They must have expected so much from each other and yet sometimes, when it was needed, let the other be alone to do his or her own thing. But these passionate things are past now. What remains is a routine to be followed from here on to the very end. Not by choice but by compulsion. Your body simply won't tolerate anything new. It is heart wrenching to see something that started with such fun, passion and love, end up so dry, mundane and dead.



Amour is about a musician couple for whom old age is now a reality. Their once colorful and bright lives are now a series of slow movements and brief sentences. Illnesses set in and things go generally south. I was wondering what would it do to my self respect if i lose the ability to do the most mundane of everyday tasks? If i need to call for help every time i need to change my clothes? What if i know that this will never get better, old age is not reversible. Who would you ask for help everyday? Your partner is as old as you are. Your kids have their own lives their own worries to take care of. And what if you don't have any kids? Perhaps you would wish your parents were alive. I guess your mother is the only person you can ask for something without worrying how she would manage to do it. But she will be long long gone.

Somehow in India old age does not look that bad, yet. People still live with their parents. But things might change. You cannot demand freedom and independence (living separately) in your youth and then expect your kids to sacrifice their own plans and stay with you in your old age. That is just hypocrisy of the first degree. I increasingly feel our old age would not look like what we are seeing our parents go through right now. It would look more like what they show in Western movies. And it is a horrible terrible sight.
    
I have known people who get married and time their kids such that when they get old, their kids will be just the right age to come in handy. I don't know if their plan will work. I wish them the very best. For me, i have decided. The day i am not able to make it to the toilet and back on my own, i will register for sky-diving lessons. And if that doesn't work, i have a few other things on my mind.

Happy thirty third birthday to me.

PS: The other two movies that i saw on my long Mumbai - San Francisco flight were The Hobbit and Fargo. Both great movies, but not as rattling as this one. 

Sunday, June 02, 2013

नांदी

नाही. नांदी ह्या नाटकाची सुरुवात नांदी नी होत नाही. Actually त्याचा शेवट 'पंचतुंड नररुंड' ह्या सुंदर नांदी नी होतो. नुकताच ह्या नाटकाचा शुभारंभाचा प्रयोग पुण्याच्या बालगंधर्व रंगमंदिरात झाला (दुसरीकडे कुठे होणार?!). त्या विषयी थोडसं.

नाटकाच्या सुरुवातीला एक पात्र असं म्हणुन जातं की आपल्याला आपला इतिहास समजून घेण्यात रस नसतो, मग भविष्यात काय करायचं ते कळत नाही आणि वर्तमानात नुसते गोल गोल फिरत बसतो. इंग्रजी मध्ये पण अशी म्हण आहे कि 'Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it'. माझा इतिहास हा विषय कायमच कच्चा होता. कदाचित ह्या नाटकात जितक्या प्रामाणिकतेने आणि रोचकतेने नाटकाचा इतिहास दाखवला आहे तसाच आमच्या शाळेतल्या मास्तरांनी शिकवलं असतं तर interest develop झाला हि असता. असो. जरी आपण इतिहास घडवणारे किव्हा तो पुढे मागे करणाऱ्यांपैकी नसलो तरी तो जाणून घेतल्यानी आपल्या सोबत आजूबाजूला बसलेल्या व असलेल्या लोकांविषयी काही interesting फंडे कळू शकतात कधी कधी. आणि तो इतिहास सांगायला स्वतः भरत मुनी आले तर? Add some sense of humor to the guy and you have a fun filled journey into the history of Marathi Theater. 

कालिदासलिखित अभिज्ञान शाकुन्तलम् मधील एका प्रसंगाने  ह्या प्रवासाला सुरवात होते. मी असा प्रकार पहिल्यांदाच बघत होतो म्हणुन जरा मजेशीरच वाटत होतं. अति आदर अथित्य. 'हे आर्यपुत्र' type dialogues. अतिरंजित हावभाव. आपण ह्या सगळ्याचं विडंबनच पाहिलेलं असतं. खरं कोण करतं असं आजकाल? पण ह्यातील कलाकारांनी ते खूपच sincerely केलं. म्हणुनच कदाचित प्रेक्षकांनी पण प्रवेश संपल्यावर टाळ्यांनी त्यांचं कौतुक केलं (व्यावसाईक नाटकाचे प्रेक्षक हे प्रायोगिक नाटकांना उगवणाऱ्या प्रेक्षकांपेक्षा कमी 'serious' असतात असं दिसतं. व्यावसाईक नाटकं वेळेवर सुरु होत नाहीत, लोकं मधे मधे येत रहातात, mobile वाजतात, 'आवाज आवाज' असं ओरडतात. पण हाच प्रेक्षक जास्त उत्स्फूर्त आणि न लाजता दाद देतो असेही जाणवते). ह्या नंतर संगीत सौभद्र मधील 'आजच्या youth ला आवडेल असा romantic' प्रवेश झाला. प्रसाद ओक ह्यांचा स्त्रीभूमिकेतील अभिनय आणि अजय पुरकर ह्याचं गायन फारच वरचढ झालं. जोरदार once more मिळाला आणि तो त्यांनी घेतला सुद्धा. कीचकवध, सखाराम बाईंडर, एकच प्याला, नटसम्राट, अश्रूंची झाली फुले, Barrister अश्या अनेक उत्तमोत्तम नाटकांमधील प्रवेश झाले.

ह्या सगळ्याला एकत्र गुंफ़णारे दोन धागे होते. एक म्हणजे कालिदासाच्या काळापासून आत्तापरेंत बदलत आलेले स्त्री पुरुष नातेसंबंध. कस अजूनही सगळा focus हा पुरुष पत्राचे काय होते ह्याला दिला जातो. फक्त नाटककार नाही तर प्रेक्षकांकडून सुद्धा. आणि दुसरा धागा म्हणजे पूर्वीच्या काळी असलेलं जाती, वर्ण, शारीरिक संबंध ह्या विषयी नाटकांमधून बोलण्याचं स्वातंत्र्य आता का कमी होत जातंय हा होता. ह्या नाटकातील भरत मुनी म्हणतात तस - ह्या गोष्टी प्रत्यक्ष होतात तेव्हा त्याचं कोणाला काही वाटत नाही पण त्याच नाटकात दाखवल्या तर बोंबाबोंब, दगडफेक, हाणामारी !

फालतुचे ban आणणं आपण बंद करावं आणि ** मधे दम असल्यासारखं वागावं ह्या सदिच्छेवर हे नाटक संपतं.  मला तरी खूप आवडलं. तुमचं तुम्ही ठरवा. नाट्यं भिन्नरूचैर्जनस्य !!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Opposition Days

[This piece originally appeared on Logos]

Let the Opposition set the agenda for a few days every session, so that it does not disrupt the whole of it.

Democracy is majority rule. Whoever has the majority in the Parliament forms the Government. If all key decisions are taken by a majority vote, how is the Parliament (which the Government controls) supposed to provide oversight and reprimand the Government for its excess and wrongdoings? The Government can sit smug on its benches and tell the Opposition to first 'go get the votes' and then we will talk. 


This, like most introductions, is an over simplification of facts (done to grab attention, mostly by less accomplished writers like myself). But we have to concede that in a system based on majority vote, the parties in minority find it very difficult to get their voice heard, let alone getting their demands met.


Opposition Day is a day when the opposition parties in the Parliament, set the agenda. Any session of the UK Parliament has at least 20 Opposition days. In Canada the number is 22. It might seem a procedural thing at first, but it is so much more than that. Being able to control the agenda gives the Opposition a much better shot at cornering the Government into discussions and debates that it is trying to avoid. If these days are divided up amongst the Opposition parties, even smaller parties will get a chance to make the Government answer its concerns. In a media driven democracy like ours, the Opposition needs to also 'look' like it is opposing the Government. Routine protocols like Question Hour, Calling Attention Motions and raising motions under Rule 377, though important, are not very effective tools to play to the gallery. And let us be clear, playing to the gallery is not some superfluous thing which can be ignored, it is a necessary and critical part of a politicians job profile.


There are other interesting customs like Questions to the Prime Minister, where the PM is required to answer the questions himself (Tony Blair is said to have feared the House of Commons, thanks to it). The effectiveness of such conventions is difficult to ascertain, but without a doubt they provide the Opposition with a legitimate way, if nothing else, to vent its anger. And who knows? Maybe this can lead to a little less chaos and adjournments and little more of sane debates on critical legislations.


(This line of thought came about in a post-lecture discussion about the workings of the Indian Parliament with MR Madhavan of PRS Legislative Research)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Master-class by Girish Karnad


As part of a 3-day festival celebrating the works of Girish Karnad, he himself conducted a lecture on drama in general and play-writing in particular. Here are my notes from that engaging lecture.

A play-writer has to always bare in mind the essential difference between a संभाषण (conversation) and a संवाद (dialogue). You overhearing a couple sitting behind you in a bus, taking about their problems, is different from you being in the audience of a play depicting marital conflict. Even if the talkers in both the situations are oblivious or pretending to be oblivious to your presence, the play must be written with the audience in mind.  

Mr. Karnad used his own play 'Yayati', as a case study on how he goes about writing a play. According to him, first comes the carpentry where you get the logic and basic framework of the play right. Then comes the play-writing, the moments of inspiration and artistic satisfaction fall in this category. While explaining the intricacies of the Yayati plot, he touched upon how father-son relationships have been drastically different in different cultures. In Western culture (as depicted in Oedipus, Hamlet and at length in the whole Freudian analysis) the son is always the aggressor. And given a chance he would kill his father. But in the Indian context it is the other way round. In numerous instances in our mythology and epics, it is the father who is aggressive and son accepts his father's will. Be it Ram accepting a fourteen year sentence to keep his Father's honour, be it Shiva beheading his own son, or Pooru accepting Yayati's curse on his behalf. Of course this is no rule and there will be counter examples on both sides. But the general trend seems to hold. I wonder why it is so different in both cultures?

During the Q&A session, when he was discussing a particular character from 'Hayavadana', my friend asked whether all his plays were based on his own experiences. To this he answered a resounding yes but also pointed out that when someone relates to you an incident, and you feel their emotion, then it also becomes a part of your own experience. An experience can be emotional or intellectual, but both contribute to your expressions and your creations as an artist.

Dr. Mohan Agashe, who was sitting quietly in the audience thus far, had a very interesting point to make on this. After the British left India, we structured most of your systems like education, economy, entertainment, etc. according to Western practices and values. But within the confines of our own households, our practices and values remained traditional. The very peculiar effect that this dichotomous upbringing gave us is that when there is an intellectual appeal to us, we think in English (as in, we think with Western values) but when the appeal is emotional, we think in the vernacular. For example, when asked what you think about individual liberty and freedom, most will support it. But when you ask the same people how they want their wife to behave? They would, overtly or covertly, want her to be the traditional Indian, self-sacrificing women.

Overall the session went on quiet well and ended on time. This format was much better than someone interviewing him, and asking silly questions like what made you write so and so play, etc. It is much fun when, while explaining your viewpoint, you take concrete examples and stay brief. And that is exactly what Mr. Karnad did.

A Saturday morning well spent, i believe.

Friday, May 03, 2013

हमिदाबाईची कोठी

A cold chill went down my spine when the announcer proclaimed that this is going to be a 3-act play. It was close to 10 in the night already, I had to wake up early the next morning and drive 300 kilometres. So this better be good i said. And good it was. 


इंतजार का नाम हि जीवन है बेटी. किसी को पैसे का इंतजार किसीको मोहोब्बत का, तो किसीको मौत का इंतजार. Hamidabai was played by Neena Kulkarni (I am told it was originally played by Vijaya Mehta). She is a तवाइफ़ (courtesan) who is way past her prime. An idealist of sorts who will not adapt to the changing times, nor will allow others to do so. She thinks it is "cheating" to sing and dance to Filmi songs but when asked by her daughter शब्बो (played by Manwa Naik, and originally by Neena Kulkarni herself) if not paying the बनिया is also cheating, she just laments about hard times and avoids the question. It is ok to cheat the grocer but not the teacher. But cheating is cheating. Unfortunately this is a highly acceptable form of double standards in our society. Somehow we think that someone who works to earn money is less respectable than someone who does 'selfless' work.


मेरी अपनी जबान ही नहीं हैं। जिस के साथ बात हैं उसकी जबान ले लेता हूँ। माँ बाप अपने बच्चे को कुछ दे न दे। जबान तो देनी चाहिए ना? सत्तार is played superbly by Jitendra Joshi. An orphan who works as a pimp but aspires to work a more respectable profession and settle down with the love of his life. He hates his life's circumstances but is powerless to change them. We are always taught that we can be whatever we want to be. This character shows just how hard that can be.

मी लग्न संसारासाठी नाही संरक्षणासाठी केलंय. After marrying the local gunda शब्बो tells this quite frankly to her white-collared lover (who is too scared to marry her because she is a daughter of a courtesan). Here is one more character which fails to change her life's circumstances. But in her case it is perhaps due to her own stubbornness. She is not willing to leave or sell the Kothi which is the last memory of her mother, even at the cost of marrying a brute who she does not love. Why people give more importance to the memory/expectations of dead people, even more than their own dear life, is beyond me.

As it is obvious i was more interested in the characters than the plot. Perhaps because a plot where idealist clash with the opportunist is not very relevant today. It is a hangover of a by-gone era. We are all opportunists now :D

Spoiler Alert: After the first act was over i casually remarked that all women characters in this play are going to die one by one. And so they did. I wonder if the writer was trying to say something with this..

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Why write reviews


I have realized quite recently that honesty is undervalued. And it is rare. Even in casual conversation, let alone carefully crafted blog-posts and articles. It is easy and most times very convenient to say things which will impress others than what we truly want to express. If you offered me a choice between smartness and honesty, i would have picked smartness any day of the week, and twice on Sunday. Chicks dig it! But i guess i have reached a level of maturity (read, age) where impressing girls, though extremely desirable, is not the only thing that occupies my mind. And perhaps experience has also taught me that no amount cunning, stunning, trickery, smoothness or smartness, can make you a likeable person.

So even if one does not posses scathing insights on a subject, even if one does not posses flowery and eloquent skill with language, one shall strive to be true to himself and write honestly. And perhaps another one shall like reading it.

I try to write reviews about any new book, play or movie that i come across. Not because i want to judge that piece of creation. I doubt if anyone can do such a thing. But you do not improve at anything, or gain anything from an experience, unless you put some mental and physical energy into it. Writing a review makes you think about the experience once again, and that is where part of the learning takes place.

So write on and send me a link, would love to read it :)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Arbhaat Short Film Club

The venue was full before i got there. And i was on time. Umesh and Girish Kulkarni talked about films, short films and film making in general. I was amazed by the quality of Marathi that these guys converse in. It was obvious that they love the language and making films in it.

Mani Kaul's "Before my eyes" was a visual treat. Serene and majestic Himalayas and the Kashmir valley. It is supposed to be an iconic film, but yours truly been an average guy that he is, got bored midway through it. It was just beautiful depictions of nature from start to end. Umesh Kulkarni later described it as a poetry of visuals. आपल्याला साध्या कविता कळत नाहीत. हे काय कळणार? But the music was superb. There was a haunting piece in Dhrupad for most of the second half. The director had used a very nice ploy where the background music of one frame led to the object of the next one. While i was pondering over which instrument was used to render this soulful piece, the screen was filled with a young European girl with silver hair playing the cello. Sitting in a simple wooden houseboat, gliding on the smooth sparkling waters of some lake in Kashmir.
The girl who played the cello almost 34 years ago for this film, was present in the audience yesterday (This was no coincidence of course, she was invited). She talked about her learning Dhrupad with the Dagar brothers and leaving her country to live in India for all these years. People have such interesting lives!

I was utterly humbled by "Three of us". Directed by Umesh Kulkarni and having the most unusual cast, it stuck a cord with the audience. I had no idea that simple people, average looking people, can be so beautiful. This was a day in the life of a middle aged person with a severe deformity living with his ageing parents. You begin by feeling sorry for them but as you get to know them better you realize that their lives are not so different from ours. We might feel  better off, but perhaps if we put all our happy and sad moments on a balance sheet, it will not look too different from this family's accounts. I had read somewhere that permanent life circumstances like marriage, where you live, a disability, income level, do not affect your day-to-day happiness that much. Perhaps it is true.

"Kaatal" was another well made film. It won a lot of National Awards this year. But more that the film i liked what came after it. An interactive session with Yogesh Pawar (Best Director), Abhimanyu Dange (Best Cinematography), Alok Rajwade (Male Lead in Kaatal) and Prana Pethe (Female Lead in Kaatal). The audience asked the usual silly questions but these young guys handled them extremely well. The film is a bit arty and has a somewhat ambiguous ending. People kept asking the makers what _exactly_ did they want to express. To this Alok suggested that we, all of us, always want something definite, exact, unambiguous from most things in life. But the truth is never so. It was a slam dunk.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Will you help improve traffic in Pune?

We often say that people in Pune have no traffic sense. We do not follow even the most simple rules like stopping behind the white line at a traffic signal. But this is not entirely true. There are people trying to improve the situation. I have seen them stopping behind the white line, directing traffic at congested intersections, helping the traffic police. These people understand the advantage, benefit and the critical need of having a disciplined traffic. The problem is that they do not have any authority. They cannot effectively nudge others into becoming more sensible drivers. This policy aims at, among other things, enabling such people.

Remember, crowd behavior (which includes traffic)  is about critical mass. You do not need to convert everyone on the road. Most people will do what the guy next to them is doing. Currently this critical mass is tilted towards aggressiveness on the road. But if it sways towards more responsible behavior, that will quickly become the default and there will be a drastic improvement in the driving conditions in the city of Pune.

Background
The Pune Traffic Police facebook page has close to 30,000 subscribers. People used to report traffic violations and the Traffic Police would respond with the action taken. This received extremely enthusiastic response from the people initially. But the Traffic Police could not keep up with the reported violations and it eventually lost momentum.
The critical time for a new rule, is the 'breaking in' period. Some rules like P1/P2 parking, wearing seat belts, were monitored and violators fined effectively when they came into effect. Now they have become second nature to most people and do not receive a lot of oversight.

Policy Goals
It aims at making the general public a participating entity in the implementation of traffic laws, as opposed to be being just the affected party.
It aims at lessening the burden of commissioning and managing the non-capital aspects of traffic management by providing a mechanism to involve private players and volunteers in checking traffic violations.

How it works
This policy applies to traffic laws like, stopping at red light (behind the white line), not parking in no-parking zones, not going the wrong way, etc.
City will be divided into number of sectors (by clubbing together electoral wards or some order more sensible way).
Private agency (or private citizens) will have to collect photographic proof of vehicle breaking a law.
A central database (website) will be provided to upload the photographs and other details like Date, Time and Location. A Phone Application (Android/iPhone) can also be developed, which will make this whole process very fast and simple.
Chief responsibility of traffic police will be to recover the dues.
The dues will be adjusted according to number of violations in that sector. Higher dues for sectors with higher violations. (This will give an incentive for private agency to record more cases of violations, and for public to violate less.)
People will be given a chance to contest the fines in a special tribunal, comprising of Traffic Police, Corporators and NGOs. Basic verification of photographs is not very costly (softwares are available). The fixed cost of verification will be borne by the losing party.
Private agency will get an assured sum plus a commission on dues collected.
Contracts will be for a limited period (say 2 years) and bids will be called for each sector separately.

Benefits
Economic incentives will bring in a lot of manpower and resources into traffic management.
Adaptive pricing of fines will give people an incentive to follow the rules and urge other people to do the same.
As collection of dues is strictly out of private hands, there is no danger of misuse of power.
A basic fixed remuneration will ensure that private agencies can maintain operations even when violations are low.
Because there is a price for false appeals, appeals will be less hence process will be more efficient and fast.

Limitations
This policy does not help with immediate resolution of traffic jams, parking violations, etc.
If the values of fines and also the fixed benefit to private agencies is not proper, it can lead to non-profitability for private agencies or extortion for violators.
If the tendering process is not open and transparent, it can lead to cartelization and corruption.
Not effective for violations which are difficult to record (like honking, etc.)
If people feel animosity towards the private agencies, it might lead to clashes.

Sunset Clause
This can be implemented for a period of 6 years. It can be scrapped if the overall traffic sense and discipline has improved to a sustainable level.

In Conclusion
Though this is not the solution to all traffic problems, if implemented properly, this can lead to improvement of conditions for all the stakeholders.

(This was originally written as an assignment for the GCPP course.)