Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A visit to Gorur

Ok, after one of those ‘mood swings’ of mine, I’m back to being normal, healthy and happy. It’s just wonderful I have a day off today, so I thought I’d blog something exciting. My recent trip to Hassan and Gorur was interesting, and I was waiting for time to document it. It was the week before last that we left for Hassan—it was an ideal family outing, with cousins with whom you can endlessly talk with perfect confidence because they are the sort of people who will really understand why academics is boring and why movies deserve to be discussed. We were cramped in a single car, all the seven of us, but that did not matter, what mattered was feeling the wind on your face, gossiping, and listening to the music blaring as the car sped past on the highway. I must say I was the most excited of all, because I would be visiting Gorur for the second time.

Anyone who is well into Kannada literature would have heard the name of Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar, a man who had a wonderful way with the pen. I call him the RK Narayan of Kannada literature….his writing is realistically captivating, and leaves a powerful imprint on the mind. This man was from the village of Gorur, which is about 22 kilometers from Hassan. Just like Narayan, who describes Malgudi in his imaginative detail, Ramaswamy too writes usually about his village with great fondness and natural pride. His writings were so powerful that they beckoned me to Gorur, and I somehow made sure I visited the place I had read about so often, last year. When I finished reading a marvelous novel written by him ( Namma Oorina Rasikaru), I just couldn’t stand the urge to visit the place. The same way RKN’s fans would feel if someone told them Malgudi existed, or Harry Potter fans were invited into the Hogwarts school of witchcraft. The place had changed over the years, as I observed from the car window. The book written by Ramaswamy Iyengar is half-a-century old, and the vivid description of the village and it’s people stayed in the depths of my mind as I made a quick comparison between the old and new faces of the village and I realized that the little village nestled in between the refreshing greens of the Malnad region of Karnataka was on it’s way to change---with modern bus-stands, trendy new buildings, this was not the village I had read about. But still, the visit was not all that disappointing. We did visit the temple on the banks of the river Hemavathi---it was one structure which remained unaffected by the constant changes and even didn’t forget to peek into Mr. Ramaswamy’s house!

This time, there was in additional bonus—we visited the Hemavathi dam, the waters were surging because the river was overflowing with water this monsoon. The Hemavathi Dam, I think is one of the best places to visit in Northern Karnataka, especially during the monsoons. The atmosphere of the Malnad region is truly magical. The cold winds will heal and revive you, the unpredictable sun who plays hide and seek in between the clouds can mesmerize you and the breathtaking view of the turbulent and vigorous waters of the Hemavathi river will numb your senses. The silent beauty of Hassan and surrounding regions will command respect and you’ll find yourself falling in love with this region, it feels better than home. This region is characterized by Abundance, and even the weather suits people like me who prefer the cold and wet kind of a climate. It is a stark contrast to Bangalore, and you can lose yourself in nature, all the elements here are free and strong, with nothing to arrest them---the winds, the water, the thick emerald forest cover….you will not see meekness, even Hemavathi river is a ferocious, you cannot swim in it when it’s overflowing, she will drag you away. For all those dare-devils, a visit to the Dam can invoke a rush of tingling excitement. Just stand around looking at the water, and there will be an unexpected surge of cold water, and before you know it, you are drenched to the skin, shivering, and waiting for more of it. It’s better than the fun rides at GRS! I got really wet, and to top it all off, it started raining the next moment, which made it all the better, of course. I am secretly proud I have no fear of water or the rains, I welcome it, (I think I could still go get drenched once more, even after falling sick, because I stayed out in the rains too long on Thusday!) Hey, and I forgot to mention! I did a bit of bird-watching too! Malnad is a bird-watcher’s paradise! I spotted the Indain Roller once more, the blue-tailed bee-eater (One of my favorites—I haden’t seen one in a long time), the common tailor bird, cormorants and plenty of cattle egrets. I was dancing around, trying to get pictures, which the adults did not appereciatet too much. The photos too did not come out properly, because it was raining outside, or I would have surely posted them. That ended a memorable weekend, a weekend that I am sure not to forget.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More on the Book Binder

In one of my previous posts named 'THE BOOK BINDER' (Sorry, I don't know how to link to previous posts, perhaps, a little help here?), I had talked about my favorite book-binding shop down Ghandi Bazaar road which will be closed down in the near future, and the cause for it all, is the rapid urbanization of my city. I finally suceeded in getting the pictures of this book-binding shop, the temple, and Ghandi Bazaar road, as I felt it necessary to give you the complete picture of the scenario. For those of you who have read that post of mine, this will be an additional delight (or I hope so), for those of you who haven't, I request you to go through it in your spare time.

Quick note: What's happening?
This is a very old book binding shop, opened in the 1960's in NR colony, Bangalore,and quality book binding is undertaken here. This is the place, faithfully, where I give my tinkle comic books for binding every year. But now, the shop has to close down. The Reasons?

A supermarket has come up next to this old shop

The supermarket wants more space, and the owner of the shop, who has rented the place to the binder is preassurizing him to close down

The man has agreed, because he is not doing good buisness of late

Who is the man?
That man there, in the photograph, is my book-binder. He is a faithful, devoted man. He has long years of expereince, and is very talented because, he learnt the art of book-binding long ago from the last of the Bristish before they left our country. He has been working every since, elsewhere in Bangalore, and then he moved over to NR colony in the 1960's. He has witnessed the independence movement too, and he is in Bangalore for a long long time. He can tell me how my city was, fifty years ago! The man says, even his workers have stopped showing up for work, because they get better salary somewhere else...he is now forced to do everything alone, and he is distressed, and unhappy. I have observed of late, his reflexes have slowed, and he speaks with a slight stutter. This man is in a real predicament, and I don't know how to help him, I don't know what a small teenager like me can do...what an aweful waste of talent, if he closes down! I really don't want that to happen. I need advise. Any suggestions?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Science Practicals

Science, they say, is all about ‘experimenting’. Well, thank my lucky stars that the colleges don’t think so, or I would be failing. Somehow, experimenting is not my cup of tea, and things tend to go horribly wrong when I experiment with stuff. I am extremely careful, and I try not to experiment at all (who cares what happens to potassium carbonate when you add concentrated sulphuric acid to it?), but if I am forced to…well, my teacher has to bear the consequences.

My greatest achievement is that I managed to survive without breaking a test tube last year. That is pretty difficult to manage…usually; I end up with something very different from what is considered ‘normal’. For example, the day when my chem. Experiment when horribly wrong, and only my test tube turned motty-green, emitting a horrible, green coloured gas, with my teacher screaming, “Not the test for Ist group acid Radicals, my girl, try with Hydrogen Sulphide!” Everyone else’s had the required “Curdy white precipitate”, and people were closing their noses…well, you get the picture.

The worst and the most boring of all practicals is physics….I almost never get the values right. It’s gives a dose of frustration, really…it makes me tear my hair out. It’s wonderful that Hemavathi, my classmate is by my side, saying, “That’s not right,” “That’s not how you should do it!” Well, the circuit connections go wrong when I try, and I can’t time the number of oscillations of the pendulum (we calculated the acceleration due to gravity on earth to be 11.8 when it has to be 9.8 meters per second) The so called ‘Scientific temperament’, blah..blah…blah…it lacking. Hmm…I wonder how Thomas Alva Edison experimented with nearly a hundred substituents of carbon for the bulb, before he got it right. If I were him, the world would still be dark at night.

Coming to Bio…my favorite. I was a good artist in school and there is nearly no experimenting, so it’s fun. I can sit for long hours, sketching the cross-section of the liver’s hepatic cells until I reach perfection. But there are yucky parts too…Cockroach dissection! I nearly vomited when they did that. They pair up 2 people, and I never even touched the cockroach, let alone dissect it! My friend Thunga was perfectly happy doing it, and I totally freaked out when I observed that the ‘unconscious’ or the ‘dead’ cockroach (It’s hard to make out with cockroaches, actually) was either regaining consciousness, or coming back to life while she was dissecting it. Somebody actually scared me we would have to dissect a toad this year, until I learnt that there were joking.

Well, that’s practicals for you. In my next blog, I wish to continue on what went wrong in practicals, and how I coped with it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It’s Independence day! Well, there will be a surge of patriotism today as we remember long dead heroes of the country and pay our tributes to them. They are interviewing some of the Kannada freedom fighters on TV today, and looking at all this, it makes me wonder, why do we ignore our freedom fighters until it is August 15th? Nobody bothers about the old chap down the filthy lane, ninety-five and barely able to survive on his income, until it is Independence day. Well, on 15th August, we put a shawl around his neck, keep a mike near his mouth, and fire questions at him.

Our freedom fighters—the remaining ones are living in pathetic conditions. I think, atleast, one ought to be practical when honoring such noble, poverty-stricken people. We give them a shawl, a memento painted in the tricolors or a certificate…well, what will an old man do with a hundred shawls? The certificates are useless, and the memento or trophy just becomes a showpiece. We could pay for his food, instead, or even provide him with a comfortable home. These men are grieving deeply—they are grieving to know that they did not fight for the country to be treated like this. They want to live with dignity, they trusted the government to provide them with homes and comfort for the great sacrifices they have made in the past. To me, Independence day is not about walking around in the streets, waving our tricolour flag madly, it’s about seeing the smile on the faces of these fighters again, it’s about the faith in the country returning to their hearts…that’s when I’ll say the struggle for independence fulfilled it’s own causes, and that we are truly happy and free, because India, then, has turned out to be what the original leaders once dreamt of.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Are you forgetting to have fun?

Remember the first day you learnt to ride a cycle? And the way you took your new bike to school to show it off to classmates? And long, leisurely schooldays when you returned home with a bunch of friends, riding your cycle through green by-lanes, on the roads, and explored everything possible, prodded in every nook and corner with your good old cycle? There will be a ‘Tcah! What days!” on your tongue right now, as you slip into the memories of the ‘good old days’.

But that’s the funny thing about our old men and adults. We just live on memories, thinking, always reminiscing. For instance, you might sit and brood on the way you had fun on your cycle as a lad, when you ought to realize that you are still living, your bones are still strong (perhaps even a little stiff due to meager exercise), and it is still possible to go out there, into the beautiful open, and ride a cycle again, and enjoy the feel of the wind on your face. But the sad things about Indians is that we stare a lot (Look at that old man, he still rides a cycle!), and even if you want to do the things you want to do, people will stare, point and comment. We have established well-defined rules as to what a kid ought to be like, and what an adult should do with his or her life. That’s really sad, we should abandon the system, because everyone should be allowed to enjoy their lives, no matter what.

My ‘Indianness’ always intruded when I saw strange things in America.
“Old women swim?”
“Oh my gosh! Look at that man! He watches kid’s movies!”
“Man! That women is sixty and she drives a car everyday?”
“ Is it really an old man who just trekked a mile into the forest?”
You see, our old men don’t do that. Our old men sit and home and sleep, think of their ‘good old days’ or read philosophy. I see very few exceptions who are still working. Admit it, most of us love ice-cream and chocolates, but some shy away from ice-cream, because ice-cream is ‘for kids.’ Our adults don’t read comics, don’t watch Disney, don’t swim, don’t cycle (for high school kids, you know), don’t go for the roller coaster ride with their son at the fair…but some just pretend to be serious men, when there heart craves to have fun, just like they did when they were kids.

I firmly believe that life is always beautiful when we view things through a child’s eyes. Life should be utilized to the fullest, and people just forget to have fun as they grow up. Well, you can be sure, that, in this nation’s teeming millions, there is a girl who will grow up to become a fun-loving adult. And that’s me….you can be sure.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Book-Binder

(Kindly note--this is the longest blog I have ever written. I know it is inappropriate to post essays on my blog, and I know it might irritate the casual reader to go through the entire thing...if you have time, pl go through, if you don't skip to the end, coz it carries a message. This one's been rotting in my account for quite some time, and so I thought I should put it to good use and blog it)

Come every June or July, my heart wells in the sweet expectation of the monsoons. But June is not only about monsoons, it’s that special time of the year when I ritualistically, tenderly give up my newly acquired tinkle comics for a couple of weeks as they’ll be visiting the book binder, to have them neatly trimmed off, pressed and binded, to be preserved eternally, in colourful red and green covers for me to savor for the days to come.

This book-binder interests me, because he is like none other. He is a traditional one, I can see, he’s been in the line for many years. I know my books well, and I know this dear man well also, and his work is always neat, unselfishly completed with faithfulness and loyalty. One can’t help but admire the quality of his work…anything entrusted to him is carried out to the best of his ability, never once, it seems, has he lost interest in his work. Yet, the little old man down Gandhi Bazaar Road remains unrecognized: he reposes in a silent cocoon of his, not wishing to really come out and scream that he deserves a pat on his back for working so hard for all these years... but he has faith in himself, and for him, that is enough--it gives him strength to continue the mundane work of his.

His workplace is nothing too special—it is old, derelict and neglected corner of a building, and is supremely unattractive and drab. It can easily slip off one's eyes: many people who live here are unaware of it’s existence. But I just happened to chance on it, when I needed to get my books bound. My eyes desperately sought a binder, and they rested with delight on the small grey corner of the building which announced Elegant Printing Works.

Initially, I was reluctant, I suppressed my urge to rush my books to his place—I had to be careful. It was a matter of selecting a talented binder. I hated the insensitive kinds who were not devoted to their work. I was already dissatisfied with my previous binder who had done a bad job with my books and I had decided to be even more selective when it came to choosing the right book-binder. Well, the first look at this man told me he was the right one. I took my books to him one day as he sat working, with my beloved comic books in a heavy plastic cover. I observed him till I was allowed to speak. He was binding some books, and beside him rested a think wad of gum, which he was plastering onto the book covers. Over in one corner of the room rested a rusty binding machine, and there was a sort-of a makeshift attic above his weary head which was stashed with all kinds of bound, yellowing books and I wondered if they were still readable. His room was small, and the man himself was small, wearing thick spectacles, and a white bunion. We gave our comics to him, repeatedly murmuring that he ought to be careful, because these comics were important to me. He asked us to return in three days when the books would be ready and I waited anxiously to see my books return home.

I hurried to the binder’s ( the 8th of July, it was, according to my Journal entry) back seated on my mother’s two-wheeler, and my books were bound and ready at the shop, as promised. The man was waiting. The payment he requested was minimal (it looks like he was unaware of how much the other binders were demanding, evidently, it was more than he was.) I remember it was a beautiful day, there is a temple neighboring his humble shop, and there were people visiting the temple. The famous giant trees of my neighborhood which I am so proud of did not sway, they were too burly for the winds, but the leaves rustled, and small rains started off, and I knew they would get stronger.

I could not help but feel true pity towards this man, a devoted, hard-working man, an old timer working away on his rusting book-binding machine. Judging by the state of his workplace, he did not earn much. It looked like we were his only customers in days. There was this overwhelming pity for this man. Previously, I had not bothered about him: just like many others, he had passed unnoticed like a commoner under my eye. That day, I made a promise. From that moment, I decided that every year, it would be to this man I would bring my Tinkle comics for binding, and every year, he would, without doubt return my bound books…and everytime I read them, I would feel grateful to the sturdy hands which had ensured me that pleasure.

That is my problem—I care too much, and I am proud of it. I cannot be insensitive, however small a problem is. Maybe, it was my impulse to feed this man, my understanding that he deserves more than he has earned that makes me take my Tinkle books to him every year. I also know, I am not the ultimate one, and yes, I only take my books to him once a year, and you might argue that the money he gets out of this will not suffice…he cannot live on it. True, but it always helps to be a little kinder…to make a small change, to take a little step and extend a caring hand. Some helping silently is better than remaining indifferent, is it not?

For the past three years, I have unfailingly taken my books to him, and he has worked with great perseverance, the only changes I have seen in his workplace it an addition of 2 chairs—A wicker one with an old pillow and a simple steel folding chair. I suspect he gets back-pain often, and when I visit him, I usually sit on the cold steel chair, leaving the other one empty.

This year, once again, the time arrived to count my books, number them and visit the book-binder. I packed them up neatly in a plastic bag as usual, but I was unable to go along with my mother, as it was test-time, and requested her to drop it off at the Binder’s. She did so, and she returned and told me, that this was possibly the last time I would have my books bound here, because the old man was closing his shop.

It is sad, somehow, his defeat dampened my spirit. I don’t know why. Maybe it was the evidence that my simple job of sustaining him had failed…I asked her why. She told me the poor man was burdened under constant pressure from the owner who had permitted him to use that useless corner of the building for his purposes.
“The owner has asked him to vacate the place” she said, “And the man has agreed to close down. They are not doing good business.”

Finally, I understood why. Recently, a Spencer’s supermarket had erupted next to his workplace—with flashy orange displays to attract customers. I don’t like such changes—a supermarket in front of a temple and next to a book-binder looks misplaced, but that's the sad thing about Bangalore, everything is growing haphazardly…and sometimes, I feel angered, as if I want to put an end to the constant changes the city is facing, showing it’s ugly face in every corner of the city....I would want it to stop, I would like my city to return to it’s original splendor, although I realize it is near to impossible.

I suspect, the supermarket wants to widen, engulfing the poor binder’s shop, and the old man has given in….I know he will stop working now. I only wonder how his future will be… ‘ritual’ is broken, and I am sure, I shall not find a better book-binder anywhere in the city…and I shall blame this all to the rapid urbanization, which had unpleasantly affected me, and incensed me beyond belief.

But whatever’s done is done. The truth remains that I shall miss this old man and his shop, the wicker chair, the old, dusty attic…everything. He shall remain unforgotten, because his handiwork rests in my hands….I will be missing you, old man.