Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Manipur Diaries

A Goan in Manipur looking for home finds he isn’t exactly welcome. The local Meiteis have taken to blocking the streets demanding that the state government implement the Inner Line Permit System that will prevent indiscriminate influx of “outsiders” from destroying their way of life and buying their land. And so I find myself pretty much holed up in an tiny but airy room in a nondescript lodge overlooking the incomplete remains of Dewlahland.



An ol’ peacenik friend of mine had asked me to conduct a photography workshop for undergrad youth in Churachandpur, Manipur. I agreed immediately as I was looking for an opportunity to meet the Bene Menashe tribe who live there waiting to make "aliyah". In my excitement, I even booked tickets for Sayuri n Sarada but had to eventually cancel as the ILPs protests intensified and everyone around thought it would be stressful.


I flew in to Imphal last afternoon via Calcutta where a friend's friend came to pick me...Geology united us :). He greeted me with an uncertain giggle and we drove into town with no real plan. “I’ll come to the airport and then we’ll see”, he had said the previous night on FBchat. I was open to any eventuality and happy to go with the flow. Outside the window, Imphal seemed like a city trying desperately to grow but its attempts curtailed. Roads, buildings, bridges, everything incomplete and like most Indian cities dirty and unkempt. 


Between hotels that were closed due to the "disturbances" and those beyond budget, I settled for this lodge in Dewlahland, in an area populated by "tribal people" and therefore safe for me. From my room I could see the War Cemetery and so this morning, thinking that the dead wouldn't mind my being around, I went to pay my respects. 

The Battle of Imphal in 1944 was the turning point of the Second World War where hundreds of Indian, British, Japanese were killed. 





Saturday, March 07, 2015

...and unto us is born a queen!

Christmas came early last year! In fact, 'the star' was sighted in March itself, while SHE came home in May - on the 14th of May at 5:01pm, to be precise...changing our lives forever (he said rather euphemistically;)

Adjectives pale into insignificance as I attempt to put to word all that one has experienced n felt over these last ten months. Indescribably new and beautiful...something one hasn't experienced before.

I will never forget the long drive back home from the adoption agency that evening. It wasn't the car I was driving, my hands weren't on the steering wheel and it wasn't the road I was driving on. I was gliding with the most precious cargo. So what if she bawled her eyes out before drifting to sleep only to wake up bawling again. Our hearts heaved a collective sigh as we exchanged worried looks. Exhausted from crying so much, she slept deeply that first night. So did we, forgetting that we even had a baby. How we shrieked, "there's a babyyy!" upon waking up next morning :)

Sayuri Sarada Noronha

all of five months old began teaching us, fortyfiveyearoldfarts, about life n love right away. There is love and then, there is love. But how does one explain or describe the love one feels towards this constipated worm who looks at you unblinkingly?

Ten months later, the wonderment has only increased and the joy boundless. We kiss each other ever thankful for this gift, this blessing that has blossomed into a beautiful little lily.


Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Finally! Presenting "A Picture Of You"

For over ten years now, I have been working on this film which started off with getting to know my dad. I had lost him when I was six. The question I had asked was: Can film bring my father back to life in a way I will never lose him again? But this film did far more than that.

I now invite you to the premiere on 12th Oct 2012 at the Vikalp@Alliance screenings at Alliance Francais in Churchgate at 7pm. The screening will be followed by a discussion.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

India shining, honestly!


I walked today for less than a couple of hours with an extraordinary bunch of guys from Hyderabad and Bangalore. They were on a Kanyakumari to Dilli padyatra to share an important message of personal honesty as an ideal for nation building. Mujeeb, Vivek and the others (some in their twenties) struck me with their passion, openness and single-minded purpose. And that too on a budget of Rs 50 a day only to experience first-hand that the minimum wages fixed by the govt of Rs 32 was woefully inadequate.

For a large part, I keep whine-ing about the youth today and this silenced me totally! I thanked them for this tiny opportunity they provided me as I said bye at Shivaji Park. But what stayed with me thereafter was their incredible personal journeys...I hope they find their thoughts, dreams and vision echoed wherever they set foot. 

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

BluD


BluDada is what I've always known him as, from a blue bus he used to drive when we lived in Nagpur. My dad's younger brother, who from whenever I can remember has been in Germany. He is a priest there, tho now retired.

This photograph is a from our visit to Goa when he took me back in time to show n tell me all about their childhood. I was trying to get to know a lil about my dad through him. He limped up  a steep hill and down to the Chapora river to show me where they learnt swimming and caught fish with lines made out of coconut leaf stems.

But that's not what I started writing this for. I go tomorrow to Germany to see him. He's getting older n slower now and says he won't come to India again. I'm sad about that. I am taking a Samsung Galaxy Tab for him - a tablet phone so he can call and use the net from his room itself, without needing to climb down to his office. The excitement I feel for him is just like I had felt when he got me a really cool pair of roller skates or the first portable radio he got us. I cannot wait to see his face...

As a kid, we'd go up to Nagpur to spend Christmas with my dad's family. Bundled up for the cold, I'd wait impatiently for him to set up his slide projector. My first glimpses of Europe! I packed all those slides I found many years later when the ancestral house was sold...and the projector too :) I have his photography diary too where'd he made meticulous notes about his exposures. And the delightful little behind the lens filters.

I guess I'm just going to say thanks!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Everybody's Meenaka


he couldn't live without her (or was it the other way round?)...with him gone, what reason did she have to hang on?...how quietly she went and so suddenly... without even saying bye...


...while I wait for the phone to ring at 8.30 in the morning. May you live happily ever after...


From Ovid...there was a god who wandered disguised on earth with the intention of learning about his creation. One cool spring by the sea, he comes to a farm on the edge of the village, occupied by an elderly farmer and his wife. They invite him to supper and a night's lodging. The next morning the god continues on his journey after the couple has been allowed to make one wish: they do not want death to separate them. The god responds to their wish and turns them into a huge tree to shade the farm.



In their cool shade, if I can be even 1% of the person she was, I'll be a better human being :) 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

my appa





1921-2011
may his soul rest in peace

one cold january morning...

...it must've been around 4am, i'd have been woken off the red dhurries that lined the arched corridors outside the hall at xavier's. janfest - the indian music group's annual celebration of indian classical music was always neatly timed around my birthday :)
i'd have slept off through the more rigorous daagar brothers...but the moment pt bhimsen inhaled his first lungful to launch whatever the raag it was...that first intonation seemed to travel straight to me in that hallowed quadrangle. gently lifting me from my slumber and into complete entrallment. miyan ki todi, bhimpalasi, puriya dhanashri, multani..didn't make much sense to me then but it simply didn't matter. i was hooked! it was only much later that i learnt that kirana was also a gharana!
he'd sing well past the magical sunrise and we'd applaud and applaud and he'd simply join his palms and bow and shuffle off the stage. i'd turn around to birthday wishes and hugs...and go home beaming ear to ear. the goencho had been corrupted...and happily so :)
as sadanand menon says in the beginning of his obit "may his voice continue to wake us up and keep us alive for generations".

Saturday, August 07, 2010

beauty in the mist


sunticoppa, kodagu

green

Archaic green colours time. Passing centuries are evergreen. To mauve belongs a decade. Red explodes and consumes itself. Blue is infinite. Green clothes the earth in tranquility, ebbs and flows with the seasons. In it is the hope of Resurrection. we feel green has more shades than any other colour...
 - Derek Jarman in Chroma

Green is the colour which exists in narratives...it always returns. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence! :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

the cup half full!

midway into the year, a sense of urgency creeping in to complete things/projects i had abandoned to other quests...yesterdays israeli attack on the gaza aid ships increases my resolve to work on that conflict. i've been trashing my hands around in the deep end without getting anywhere. joe saco is a welcome relief. his footnotes in gaza is just the o2 burst i needed. his very keen eye following his journalistic nose as he gets to the bottom of two footnotes in the conflict's history. over fifty years later, not much has changed on ground there...and that feels depressing...very depressing...how much longer can we watch helpless from the sidelines? closer home, kashmir strangely seems as far :( such beautiful places reduced to rubble, halal-ed out of existence...almost.

there's a story about two guys in jerusalem - one, an arab taxi driver and the other a jewish american ex-harvard professor. over the last two n half years they've been trying to find peace in the region by organising education/peace workshops for teachers and students from both sides. but what do i have to offer save document their effort? how lame!...is it just a simple story of hope in these seemingly bleak times? is that enough? what does the land of gandhi and the buddha have to offer?

elsewhere, the wall...the concrete barrier amplifies all that is wrong...it is not just physical...and i want to express the sense of isolation, the enormity, the desperation, the inequality, the rigidity of mindsets...in one continuous loop...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

i am the dam

...the tallest, biggest dam in the world...holding back an enormous reservoir of water. pristine n placid full of the most beautiful fish n plant life. a giant lake you'd want to go boating on amidst the verdant valley that surrounds me.

i am suddenly also the water that had submerged vast swathes of thick rainforest and even snuffed out entire villages and scores of people. it is dark n murky down here, i thrash about to get out...that's when the dam bursts n i surge over. rumbling down those immense high walls with such force that i am this white frothing bubbly...powering up turbines and filling up hundreds of canals.

these canals fan out through parched dry cracked brown earth and as i flow through, a carpet of lush green keeps sprouting...greeen endless green...

Friday, January 08, 2010

happy new year!...

...but where's the photo icon? :(
so how does one upload images now?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

kafka in goa!

the undergrowth had gotten thicker n the clearing took a lot longer with more labour...the babus threw some more paperwork at me...but what's new?! c'est goa!!...but what does one do about the undergrowth in the mind that's getting denser n thicker?! stuckness reigns on my dad film front n not much else happening on the work front either...a good time to experiment one might think...but but but...am most excited about the spot we finalised to build...diagonally up across the plot facing northwest looking over the treetops all the way west to the sea!...

the labour situation being what it is in goa, every now n then, i feel i should just get a truckload of "ghantis" n do whatever it takes...but each time i go with the slow, steady, sometimes lazy local labour...so what if they work only from 8 to 11 and then 2 to 5...they're a mine of knowledge n folklore...there's this huge anthill just about bordering the "spot"...and they insisted that is what made it "not a good place" to build...i mean, what the hell, it's just a anthill after all...but nay, the king dwells therein n it is his place!...they tried reasoning with me but that much konkani i could not comprehend...turns out that there'd be a king cobra in that anthill and i'd have to appease him first with prayer n offerings before i embark on busting his home :) you live n you learn n i've been learning tons here...about dog ticks, about kingfishers, about which caterpillar results in which butterfly!...about how little one actually needs to get by...about how we fill our lives with so much distraction...

i try to generate as little garbage as i can...this time i trumped the last with just one small bag after a week!...and just 2 half blocks of ice over 7 days for all my chilling needs (beer mostly ;)...but so much around is already changing along the quiet road that winds up from handka to the plot...two apartment blocks, two row house projects, two fancy restaurants tucked deep near the local spring...the spring i was looking to do the summer workshop around...

it's the beginning of the season n there was a lot happening... stalin's dalit film played at the snooty new goa centre for the arts. up in altinho, my guess is that it's gonna be lost in the heady mist of ysl n channel, inert n out of bounds to those who'd really benefit from a space like this. a brazilian jazz concert got washed out by that bitch phyan....o but such awesome lightning and thunder!...madness tho, this climate change is showing up too often now...then there was the nsd repertory ka festival at this huge 800seater in margao...i went for 'kafka ek adhyay'...a hundred of us looked apologetic in that giant space. cellphones rang n calls were taken right thru :( an energetic performance it was combining video to cut betw archive n story. but waltzes, corsets, vienna didn't sit well in hindi, me felt...

lost my train of thought :(