Sunday, November 29, 2015

Monday Musing 248 - 'Tamasha' is 'Tare Zameen par - part 2'

Monday Musing 248 - 'Tamasha' is 'Tare Zameen par - part 2'

Those who thought that the Ranbeer- Deepika coming on screen again would be ‘Ye Jawani hai Deewani’ returns would be disappointed. ‘Tamasha’ is more a ‘Tare Zameen Par’ returns.  It is a movie that every parent must watch rather than the young ones in search of romance.

This might sound like a movie review but that is the price one pays for risking a musing that emerges out of the triggers from a movie. Cut to its bones, the movies simple message is – do not mess with the natural talents of your child or else he will turn out to be a mediocre zombie who will mouth platitudes and live a meaningless life of a drone and will have a botched up (love) life.

Tamasha runs more like an allegory than a motion picture – it flows like a sun down grand mom tale. The opening sequence is an ode paid to the ubiquitousness of stories that we all have grown up with – stories of our epics, stories from our religions, love stories and so on an so forth. The grainy images of the school boy’s enactments during plays makes a lovely backdrop that quite literally tells the viewer how deeply entrenched is the culture of storytelling in human society. It serves as the backdrop in which such imagination centric childhood then gets tormented and maimed by the pursuit of employment driven education. I am not surprised that the punching bag is ‘maths’ and ‘engineering’ – for these two represents best the terrorism of this bias on students at least in the last few decades. One could easily add medicine and now MBA to that list of tormentors! There are some brilliant shots in that early part where the story enamoured child is day dreaming and names of all other academic subjects are appearing on the screen like villains distracting him. Not a word said – but don’t they say that a pictures speaks a thousand words!

The way such a child turns into a robot when he joins work is brilliantly essayed. The meeting room scenes are comic only because they are exaggerated versions of reality. The yes-manship, the trite and mouthed-to-death lines in the powerpoint obsessed meeting room scenes bully home the point that for someone whose heart is not in the work that he does and who was meant to do something else will only experience a soul crushing meaninglessness that will corrode his joy. The person becomes a shadow of him and loses his joie de vivre and how such a pauper will only be a drag to people around him and the work that he does.

The melodramatic scene towards the end in the conversation with the now insane old story teller is poignant, particularly when the old man says something to the effect – ‘you must be out of your mind – you are asking me how your story ends – go find your end to your story’.  Do we know what we want our story to look like? Do we have the courage to write it?

Tamasha is not a romantic pot boiler. It is more a parent education initiative. Good job Imtiaz Ali. Clearly you know where the shoe pinches. The love story was just a red herring and it worked quite well.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Monday musings 247- The tuition teacher

Monday musings 247- The tuition teacher

Tuition teachers come in all types. In cities it is organised retail education enterprise. In smaller towns and cities the school teachers double up as tuition teachers to supplement the meagre incomes.

Anyone who has lived in a township of sorts will tell you that it is a unique ecosystem, particularly around tuition's. A township owes its existence to a nearby factory or an establishment viz mills, factories, or railways etc. It is an oasis in almost all ways conceivable in comparison to its surroundings.

Jhinkpani, a small township in the tribal hinterland of Jharkhand is one of the many townships that you may know of – just a little more secluded, underdeveloped and distant that you could imagine, just a bit more removed from contemporary reality or just a wee bit more serene, depending upon the perspective you deploy.

Three decades ago there was this strange professional tuition teacher – I call him strange because that is the only thing he used to do – take tuition's. This guy in that sense was different from all others – he only did tuition's for that terror of almost all school children – maths! Anyone who had a maths problem in the township knew that his was the door to knock.  

For thirty long years or so he kept the fires of his house kindled through offering his services as a maths tuition teacher. He was the only one of his ilk for the entire township and nearby hamlets. He would be seen moving around in his bicycle moving from one road to another, one house to another offering his wares on an hourly basis to terrified souls (what else but maths!). He was so ubiquitous and i would like to hazard the comparison that apart from the village post man i think he toured more houses on a daily basis than anyone else. Despite not having a formal employment as a teacher he was very well regarded, respected and depended upon. This went on for 30 long years. Generations upon generation of students from the township got tutored under his benevolent guidance. Tiny tots who became adolescent had their own tiny tots who were then attended to by him. He was the family maths tuition teacher in a way.

Last fortnight many of us met after 25 years of passing school and on a sudden impulse decided to meet our benevolent tuition teacher and we did. Old, skinny and clearly frail he seemed to be elated to see us. If he had struggle to remember our names which might not be improbable, he did not betray it. It was difficult to fathom if his reticence in expression was a result of a fragility arising out of disease and age or a choking with emotions to be remembered this way after so many years.  A tuition teacher is rarely remembered this way. In the pecking order of teachers they are often below the school teachers – in acknowledgement and remembrances. So when we met him i thought it was validation of sorts. In hindsight i can only imagine what our going to meet him unannounced would have meant for him. Did he draw any meaning out of it – for the three decade of succour and help that he provided to many? Did he feel acknowledged in what we could easily call a pilgrimage of sorts at his doorsteps? Did he feel proud that his creations had returned to express gratitude and thankfulness – and that would be greatest his earning because in monetary terms he struggled all his life to make ends meet and i am told that was the reality even today.

Exactly a week after we met him i got the news he had passed away.  Could we have delivered him the best last gift in our own unintended way – of making him see how fruitful and meaningful his contribution had been.  

Rest in peace sir.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Monday Musings 246 – Twenty five years and counting

Monday Musings 246 – Twenty five years and counting

Reunions are common. Reuniting may not be.  When a reunion also turns out to be reuniting, it can be magical. The class which passed out from the school roughly 25 years back met again and as i would like to believe also reunited.

They passed out as gawky teenagers, with funny hairdo’s and colourful pigtails, an awkwardness that the teens of that age thought was normal. They met as matured adults with receding hairlines, bulging bellies and greying beards, although some of them defied signs of ageing, which evoked the predictable envious ooh’s and aah’s. The girls were ladies and boys tried to be gentlemen. The quality of leg pulling that ensued made all such pretences melt away in a minute. It did not take much for the children to come out from grown bodies! Pure magic! Thank God their own children were too young to notice the inanities of the jokes – but they would know when they will meet their friends after quarter of century and search for comfort in such inanities. There is magic in such authenticity and the soul feels light when it does not have to conform to an image. That luxury is available with only those who have seen you in running noses and bruised knees, and with those in whose company you have giggled endlessly when thrashed together by the same teacher for a mischief which someone else had committed.

Everyone took a different path and each journey was meaningful – perfect in most ways and imperfect in its own ways – and that is what made it meaningful perhaps. I received a whatsapp wisdom the next day which said “Everything that you fret about today will be meaningless in a year’s time’’. I wonder what we used to fret over 25 years ago and how meaningless it appears today. The only thing that mattered to each one of them was to meet, mingle and reunite. Each found his/her own way of mingling and reuniting and it was not difficult to see that they were happy. The warmth was palpable.

Memories can be fickle – they have a mind of their own. Sometimes they remain embedded in a dark abyss and then with the appropriate triggers and appropriate company they start gushing out in the open. They talked of what they remembered of each other and irrespective of what the nature of the memory, they gushed together. The mush lurked beneath the humour and leg pulling. They realise that the good and the bad is not in the act but in the intent. Since all that happened so long ago was pure, naughty but free of malice, that its recollection releases only an warm ache.

Each will follow his/her own destiny yet will be united in the most powerful way that perhaps even the strongest adult bond will not be able to compete with – that it had no objective. It is the bond that develops when you share a childhood, that precious thing that can only be remembered but never recreated. I just hope they do not take another 25 years to meet again.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Monday Musings 245 -The road trip

Monday Musings 245 -The road trip
On a sudden whim, which most termed as a mild case insanity, I undertook a 2000km odd drive from Mumbai to the place of my birth in Jharkhand. The journey meandered on the east west corridor of the network of national highway, what folks of the road know as the Mumbai – Kolkata NH6. It went past Nasik on its eastern sojourn, met the dying place of Emperor Aurangzeb, now christened as Aurangabad, moved to the fort town of Akola where I took the first halt for the night at the end of 630 kms. Day 2 zipped past on the slippery four laned high way from Amravati, via the capital of vidharba Nagpur to enter the young state of Chhattisgarh via the two cousins Bhilai known for the earliest steel plant of India and then Raipur, its capital. This stretch had world class road although it was not uncommon to see a lazy dog and his master taking a stroll on the highway unmindful of my beast whizzing past.  The bruised body and the vagabond soul began Day 3 by entering western part of Orissa and crossing the fairly abandoned forest areas, although mesmerising in its greenery, via Sambalpur and reaching the mining city of Keonjhar where a north eastern turn made it enter the southern tip of Jharkhand. Waiting across the border were the best roads I had encountered in my 2000km journey in the most backward part of India. (Surprise surprise – someone seems to be working after all).
There are things that one prepares for and then there are things that happen on a road journey. I have always found air travel a very clinical form of travel – it is high on functionality and extremely low on character. There is no experience in it – it’s like a bland dish. It can satiate hunger but it cannot satiate the soul. Road travel, particularly the longer ones has something for all senses.
The road has the festival of sights for the eyes. The sight of topography changing clothes effortlessly is ethereal, from the colour of the soil to the abrupt eruption of the mountains, from the lush expanse of paddy fields that dot the countryside to the agony of barrenness for miles altogether.
The road trip has the smells to lighten you up. The early morning smoke bellowing out of huts, the aroma of dust in the wild is not oppressing, the moistness of the air during the day as you pass the forests and the soundless chill of the night when the only company is the arc of the headlights (even that dies just a few feet ahead) creates a quiet that is uplifting.
The road trip has a stillness that is reinvigorating. The cities whizz past rooted as they have been for years, may be yearning for movement. May be they want to wander but cannot. The villages show the least bit interest in you for they are content or resigned in the way they are. They cannot fathom what the fuss about the long distance road journey is! The caravan of trucks that ply the highways move in a serpentine rhythm. They are like aggressive beasts on the prowl.
Then there are questions that hum in your head. They are existential perhaps. What is most important - is it the sheer craziness and the audacity of the journey that matters? Is the quality of the roads that make a journey worth its while? Is the unpredictability of the journey that adds a zing to it – the fact that you cannot see beyond the next bend prepares you well for all journeys – for isn’t it true that in life too one cannot see beyond the next bend? Is it the direction that matters – and then the quality of roads are just incidental – in which case one is bound to reach the destination sooner than later?
A few asked me if the 2000 kms on the road was tiring. I am tempted to answer that it was a good rest.