I've been maintaining this blog (for better or for worse) over the last eight years. Over these years, its natural evolution has led it into becoming something of a niche place for discussion of music in general and Qawwali in particular. Rather than trying to return my existing blog to its pre-Qawwali eclectic roots, I decided I’d start anew on Tumblr. So if you’re interested in music, Qawwali and subcontinental culture, keep reading/listening/watching/commenting here. For all of the above and everything else under the sun, head on over to my Tumblr page .

Monday, December 17, 2007

....Of Home

There's this porcupine that's proving to be a thorn in my side(lame,I know).It lives in our village graveyard,has a strange penchant for digging up graves,sleeping in them and generally going about like it owns the goddamn place.Now I'm all for animal rights,no matter how hideously revolting an animal is.I mean,hey the human race ain't all that pretty itself.But when the aforesaid quadruped constantly snuggles up with long dead relatives and disturbs their eternal snooze and so forth,it's time to defy the critter.

It's easier said than done.I mean you can't just step up to the varmint and say"I Defy You !!!" Steps need to be taken,measures need to be implemented,bums need to be gotten off of.So,as I leave for my village this Eid/Winter Holiday season,my mind's working in overdrive.A veritable Rube-Goldberg device consisting of jumper cables,fishing nets,electric batteries,sattelite-dish-mesh and little jingly bells is all sketched up and ready.This time the little son of Belial won't know what hit him.Muahahaha...

Each visit back home,and by home I mean the village home,continues the metamorphosis that started almost three or four years ago.First a bit of background.I mean I can't just go gabbing on about tube wells and shot-guns and bunyan trees while the readers (yeah,right) sit there scratching their heads.Now there's two villages,the maternal village Jagoka,and the paternal one,Wallah.You can pronounce them anywhichway you want,they still sound musical to me.

Now Jagoka'd been the Mecca for me all my childhood.The reason was simple,it was full of cousins.And Nano's homemade pickles.And the curious red Masala that could wake you up with one sniff.The place was a bustling metropolis,ruled over by Nani Amman and Nana Bawa,the best grandparents anyone ever had(apart from Dadi Amman and Dada Bawa of course).Our uncle had millions of sattelite dishes and there was Telly.Every holiday,me and my brother would pester our parents to let us go to Jagoka and not the paternal place,Wallah.

Wallah,our place,wasn't such a bad place,but to our jaundiced childhood eyes,it was pretty drab.No children.No telly.But there were the attractions too.Dada Bawa was the best tickler in the world,but as I mentioned in an earlier post,his moods could change.Dadi Amman was the sweetest little creature in the world.Warm and tender,with that wonderful old-people-skin hanging from her arms and neck.She always had huge chunks of sweet,white Misri for us,and we would suck and chew on it for hours.

This polarity remained for a significant time,undisturbed by our parents ' constant reminders that we'd have to learn to like our place because it was after all OUR place,whereas Jagoka of course belonged to our maternal clan.But did we listen,erm no.Slowly,imperceptibly,things changed.Dadi Amman died,and the guilt I had felt for not being there for her in her last days as much as I should've,made me rethink a couple of things.

This was after all OUR place.It had the Big Red Trunk,the orange grove,Dada Bawa's horse and a lot of other small things that slowly endeared that place to me.And after Nana Bawa died two years ago (the only time i've cried over somebody's death),suddenly Jagoka didn't seem that inviting anymore.The cousins are still there,the telly's still there and the uncles are as brilliant as ever.And there's the added attraction of Nani Amman,the only grandparent I have left.But now I can sense(and i'm pretty shrewd at sensing stuff) that it's just a matter of time before the place starts closing it's doors on me.

So now it's me,heading off to make up for lost time at my new/old home.I have my air-gun to shoot the lizards,my books to while away the hours I have to spend on the Dera socializing(being the eldest son and all that),my pen and paper to list all the people I have to distribute Zakat to before Eid,and of course my cellphone to keep in touch with football.With a little bit of work,this place could feel like home.

And then there's this small matter of the porcupine too...

Movie Of The Week,"Monty Python And The Holy Grail"
Song Of The Week,"Salaamat Raho",Rafi.
Book Of The Week,"The Moon's A Balloon",David Niven.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

....Of Lethargy And Long Sabbatticals

Ages and ages since I last blogged.A variety of reasons my dears,have kept me from posting crazy stuff.Call it blogger's block(it would be too presuptous to call myself a writer),ennui or plain old laziness,whatever it is;now's the time to make amends.I sat down to write today with no clear topic in my mind(something pretty unusual for a didact like me).

It's been a long winter.A dry,not-quite-so-cold-but-hard-on-the-sinuses winter.No need for quilts and heaters,but still a craving for roasted peanuts.Initially it was exams,pretty average,even by my own measly standards.That took a lot of the energy out,and energy was just the thing I was to need in the coming weeks.If any reader remembers(reader...who am I kidding here !),one of my posts was about moviemaking.

Last year-end,I had particitipated in a shall we say,cinematic adventure.Never one to learn from my mistakes,I signed up again when the opportunity presented itself.I had thought it would be a bit easier this time around,what with experience and so forth.No marks for guessing how wrong I was.Having already garnered a Razzie for Worst Acting last year,I was determined not to show my map on screen this time.

I don't know how wasted I was,but clearly I wasn't in control of my senses when I agreed to produce the thing.Well,the first part involved the crew pinching 2000 quid from my wallet while I was semi-asleep..

Well,what with one thing and another,the movie's done,shown and even distributed to four countries by the time I am writing this.Aah,laziness prevented me from completing a post about ...erm laziness.

Book Of The Week,'Gielgud,The Authorized Biography'
Movie Of The Week,'The Producers'

Saturday, October 6, 2007

.....Of A Great Re-Discovery

Q. Define the word "ubiquitious".

A. Ubiquitious (n).Meaning : Noorjehan on PTV.In the Nineties.

My little sister,she's almost 12 years younger than me.I lament the fact that she won't be in the same cultural sphere,if that's the term I want to use,as I am.She won't know Mr. Rogers and his red cardigan,she won't get to see the 6th September waala dramas on PTV.She won't know who the hell Mohammad Jumman was. But most of all I lament her not being there when Noorjehan used to be on PTV.

At least twice,no thrice a day,Her Royal Highness would grace us with an audience.In glitzy saris,the matching neckscarves,the gaudy make-up and the impossible jewelry she still didn't look,how shall I put it,brazen. There would be kooky camera effects,multiple close-ups,kaliedoscopic whirligigs and what not.And then there would be the strangely enticing singing rituals....the sideways-glancing,knowing-eyed coquettish nods,the rolling of the lips,the strange conjuring hand movements...

It was a strange contrast that Noorjehan presented to the other great voice of the subcontinent,Lata Mangeshkar.While Noorjehan was a riot ofcolor even to her last days,Lata remained demurely shrouded in the white sari,the saffron bindi and no makeup to speak of.

When it comes to voices,I was never as great a fan of Noorjehan's as I am Lata's.Noorjehan's voice,especially since the mid-seventies had coarsed down to a scale,that sounded at times a bit too earthy,a bit too blase.That was until 25 minutes ago.

What I have in my hand is a CD.A noorjehan CD of pre-partition tracks.I had been looking for one specific track,"Tu Kaun Si BAdli Main" from the 1942 film Khandan.It's a haunting,hair-raising tune,and the young Noorjehan sings it like nobody's business.I had searched the old songs archives on every goshdarned website there was,to no avail.And then I found this CD.As i put it in,I got a shock to the system.Not one,not two,but twenty of the most otherworldly things my ears have ever heard,and they have heard their fairshare of otherworldly stuff.

I sit here totally mesmerised,my viewpoint totally altered.I used to consider the '50s as the true beginning of the golden age of Bollywood music,with the 40s a preamble,filled with nautch-girl ditties,Saigal nasal intonations and the such.But this music has opened my eyes.The surprisingly intricate arrangements,the jazz and swing infusions and the ethereal singing have made me revise my date by at least ten years...

So,now the image in my mind has altered.Noorjehan is still there,but she's this precociously talented young girl who's got the goshdarned brilliantest voice of her era.I sure wish my sis can join me,as I set out anew on the voyage in search of Noorjehan...

Song Of The Week,"Na Milta Gham",Lata
Movie Of The Week,"Starngers On A Train"
Discovery Of The Week, Noorjehan !!!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

...Of Me And The Greatest Singer In The World

Pavarotti died last week,aged 71."Big Luciano" was the greatest living singer in the world,they said.A gentle giant,the "Man OfThe High Cs" had delighted audiences around the world with his operatic feats.They called him the liberator of the opera,Caruso for the masses,the greatest singer you'll ever hear..

The greatest singer I'll ever hear ??

Can't agree with that one.I have heard a greater singer,but only one...

Roy Orbison....close.
Billie Holiday....hmm.
Elvis Presley....near.
Mehdi Hasan....almost there.
Dylan...no,serously ?

Nope,it isn't one of these spellbinding crooners,it's a barber's son from the Punjab,and his name is Rafi.

Mohammad Rafi,to be precise.The greatest singer I've ever heard,and ever expect to hear for that matter.

The first time I heard him ??

Can't remember,probably waaay back when God was stuffing my oversized soul (if you can call it that) in a body (a very loose way of describing it) three sizes too small.For as long as I can remember,Rafi's been the ONE SINGER for me.As I sit here listening to him,faint memories appear.Me singing "Chaudhvin Ka Chand" as I come out of the loo and the whole family gaping at this towsled,nine year old Son of Belial,their minds filled with the thoughts of the horrible excesses to come.Sixth grade,school bus,kids laughing themselves silly as I try to do a "Shammi Kapoor Shake",singing "Baar Baar Dekho".

Everywhere,in my house,in the orange groves back in Sargodha,in hospitals,on deathbeds,in my hostels(as my long-suffering dorm mates can testify),I've had Rafi songs on my lips.What is it about this man,short,slightly dumpy,bowlegged and balding,that's ruled my mind for ages and ages...

Well,for one thing,it's the person behind the voice.

Born in 1924 to a barber in Amritsar,he was discovered singing,as the apocryphal story goes,while cutting hair in front of Government College Lahore.Whatever the truth may be,he was one helluva discovery.From his debut in 1946,Jugnu I think it was,or Anmol Ghari maybe,he was immediately noticed.As the forties rolled on to the fifties,he slowly gained clout in a very competitive field of Playback singers.There are six giants in the field of male Playback singing in the golden days of Indian cinema;Talat Mehmood,Rafi,Hemant Kumar,Mukesh,Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey,each one a giant.As the decade started,it was Mukesh and Talat who ruled the roost.But by it's end Rafi had supplanted them,and was the undisputed King.

The sixties were HIS DECADE,with each and every film having at least two or three of his songs.The gems produced in this ten year span are impossible to count,each one better than the last.An innumerable number of music directors,actors and film makers got their breaks because of him.From O.P Nayyar's surprisingly modern scores to Naushad's towering classical compositions.From Shankar-Jaikishan's orchestral odysseys to Salil Chowdary's unbelievably complex tunes,Rafi's voice graced them all.Then there were the leading men,Shammi Kapoor,Dilip Kumar,Bharat Bhushan,Manoj Kumar,you can only think of them singing in Rafi's voice if singing at all.Even Raj Kapoor and Amitabh Bacchan,for whom the voices of Mukesh and Kishore Kumar respectively seemed tailor-made,have a couple of Rafi songs picturized on them,and his voice fits them perfectly.

As the sixties ended,a number of factors lead to a sharp decrease in Rafi's songs.The older heroes had aged,the music had changed,Kishore Kumar had found his element(and what element that was!).And there was a Hajj pilgrimage where he was told against singing so he went off to London for a rather long sabbatical.Whatever the reason,Rafi gradually faded from the scene,singing an occasional tune,until 1976.That was when he returned,his voice unravaged by the absence,instead,possessing a sharpness that hadn't been there before.There were new,younger leading men,the music was just right and the hits started flowing again.With songs like "Kya Hua Tera Waada","Chaand Mera Dil" and "Dard-e-Dil",he took India by storm yet again.And just as the comeback was kicking into high gear,he died.A massive heart attack and the great voice was silenced at the rather young age of 56.

As a person,well... Simple,pure-hearted,always with a smile on his face.Talking with a gentle rustic accent,this shy family man was almost too nice to survive in the cut-throat world of Indian cinema...

Rare Interview

The voice now.

How can one man sound drunk,giggly,heartbroken,sly,indifferent,pleading,appeasing,humble,proud and God-knows-what,almost at will ? That's what he did,over and over.With a voice in turns like a slow moving majestic glacier,a rowdy bar-night,a sharp sword point and a hundred other things.I once heard somebody describe is as "honey slowly flowing on the edge of a knife".The low notes,where an average singer's voice gets lost in his underthingies,Rafi just effortlessly glided past.And on the high notes,well that's a whole different story.

There's this story about the recording session for "O Duniya Ke Rakhwaale",the notoriously difficult Naushad masterpiece from "Baiju Bawra".It has some pretty high notes in some very unconvenient places,and in the end is the big lollalpaloosa.A long C-note that would give any singer a rupture that would put to an end any hopes he might have had about raising children (recurring topic,ain't it Dr. Freud?).The story goes that when Rafi hit that final note,Naushad had to put a hand to Rafi's throat for fear he might injure it.

And here's the truly amazing part,I've seen performances of that,and many other songs (god bless youtube!).There's Rafi,Sherwani-clad,holding the lyrics in his left hand,a smile on his face,singing almost effortlessly.And when the high-notes come,the only indication of their presence is a raising of the eyebrows,and that is all.Amazing,truly amazing.Hope I can put up a couple of links on youtube,judge for yourself.

Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki

O Duniya Ke Rakhwaale

Madhuban Main Radhika Naache Re

The most important thing in singing,besides a voice,(not such a simple thing,as Simon Cowell will gladly tell you),is Range.And range was Rafi's middle name.From ghazals,riding songs,Beatles 'inspired' guitar ditties,Elvis style rockers,classical compositions to the truly haunting free verse pieces in Guru Dutt's Pyaasa,he sang them all.And with such elan that it takes your breath away...

Now I'm not a singer,not unless warbling in front of your class on a Coke high counts as singing,but Rafi songs are my forte.They take it out of you,i know.But the pleasure of singing,and better still,singing along is one I would not trade for anything.Sometimes,when my throat's in a good mood and it's been at least three weeks since my last bout of Pharyngits,I can sing a Rafi song like it should be sung.And that's all it takes to make my day....

Song Of The Week,"(Most Likely)You'll Go Your Way,Bob Dylan remix by Mark Ronson.
Movie Of The Week,"The Departed"
Book Of The Week,"On The Road",Jack Kerouac.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

....Of A Strategically Placed Kick Versus A More Humane Treatment

"....And that,doc is why my brain's frozen up.I can't seem to write anything,my life's full of ennui and my football team's got just about as much chance of winning as a blind man in a dark room trying to shove a pound of melted butter in the ear of a wildcat with a red hot darning needle !!"

"Aah,jus,I can see the sypmtoms quite clearly my child.Eet ees a vairy common malady,but one that ish easily cured.Yes..."

"Oh thank heavens doc,what's the treatment?"

"Very simple,dear child.I will administer what we call in medical terms,a "Kick up the nargles!!"

"A WHAT ??"

" A kick up the nargles,my child.Simple yet effective."

"But wouldn't that hurt,and what about the damage to my err,you know what I'm referring to."

"Aah,yes.It's not all pleasant,as several of my patients tell me.But that's the whole point.And as for the damage.Well you don't have to worry about that,we both know that all those years of listening to Dylan have left you sterile already.So vee cannot do any more damage,hein.."

"Are you sure doctor there isn't any other cure ?"

"No mein child,it iss ze only way."

"Aah well,what's gotta be done's gotta be done.Hoof away doc."

"Excellent mein child,excellent. Now if you would just bend over.A little more.Just a little more.There,that's perfect.
And ze one ,and ze two and ze......"

No such luck,dear reader,it was just a dream.Too bad,you say.You would have liked to see me kicked up the nargles,wouldn't you? I'm sure you would.But thankfully that didn't happen.Unlike the good doctor,I found a more humane means of relieving my symptoms.It's called a Big Weekend !!

A series of unfortunate events had prevented me from coming home last week,and that had ripened my already magnificent grouch to a finer vintage.I felt that it was time matters were taken into my own hands,and an escape was plotted.A slightly fictitious excuse,and voila ! I had an extra day's leave along with the weekend.Another excuse once I got home,and I barely escaped going to a wedding in Lahore with my folks...

Finally,HOME ALONE !!!!

I had prepared well,a whole horde of movies including one that I had been waiting eighteen years for.Well not me personally,but you know what I mean.There was food in the fridge,comfort food! And the weather was as perfect as it could ever be.

Did it work ? By Golly It Did !!

Just to test if my brain had been de-barnacled,I sat down to write a synopsis-precis to a story a friend had sent me.I was hesitant,wondering if anything would click into place or not.It took work.And coffee.And frequent trips to the loo.But finally the gears started clicking,and there I was...

If anyone else has the same problem,here's the prescription.See if it works,otherwise the good doctor's foot is always an option...


The Simpsons Movie - Single Dose
The Clockwork Orange - Single Dose
High Fidelity - Two doses.King Size.
The 40 Year Old Virgin - Liberal Doses
Smiles Of A Summer Night - Single Dose,Stat.
The Lavender Hill Mob - Single Dose,taken slowly and luxuriantly

Ray Charles - No less than three albums
Beethoven - The Third,Fifth Seventh and Ninth Synphonies
Stephen Lynch - For symptomatic relief,as needed.

Perfect weather,if available...

There,try it.And do come back for follow-up.That'll be nine hundred rupees.Please pay the receptionist on the way out.

Thankyou for coming.....

Movie Of The Past Few Weeks,"The Lavender Hill Mob,(1951)

Songs Of The Past Few Weeks,If I Were Gay,Stephen Lynch.Sun Le Tu Dil Ki Sadaa,Rafi.Slow Train Coming,The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar,Bob Dylan.

Books Of The Past Few Weeks,"Irmeghan-e-Hijaz",Iqbal."WLT",Garrison Keillor."Leaving Home",Garrisson Keillor

Monday, August 13, 2007

...Of Me And P.G. Wodehouse...

(This is an older post,but one that can fit into this series of touchstones.I didn't have anything to add,so I'll put it here in its entirety)

In our farmhouse,there's this big red trunk.It is full of my father's bibliomaniacal treasures.Scores upon scores of books,of every description,size and shape.some of the best hours of my village visits are spent browsing through it,and each expedition brings forth new gems.As I grow older,my finds have ranged from Huckleberry Finn to Ben Hur to Bertrand Russel to Rousseau.But there is one find that I count among the best things that ever happened to me,truly a liofe changing experience..

It was eight years ago,as far as I can recall.Having derived all the possible pleasure out of watching a bunch of supercillious cows,I decided to rummage the big red trunk.I climbed up to the top of the storage room,opened it up and started digging.After about half an hour of dilligent mayhem,I chanced upon a funny looking book.It was "The Girl On The Boat",by one P.G. Wodehouse.so,I took it out,lay on the bed and started reading.

It was five minutes into the read that something happened.Something strange.Suddenly,I was laughing,uncontrollably,hysterically and violently.Lolling around on the bed,with tears in my eyes,trying to stop my guts from busting.I just couldn't stop,try as I might.My mother gaped at this strange apparition and ran to call my father just as I fell from my bed and tumbled to the ground,still guffawing like the dickens...My mom wrenched the book from my hands and anxiously showed it to dad,holding it ever so gingerly like it was a deadly poison or something.A look of apprehension gave way to comprehension,as an understanding smile spread on my father's face and he said,"Relax Farree(my mum's name),it's just Wodehouse !!

"It's just Wodehouse,talk about an understatement.From that moment on,I have been enthralled by the Master's works,lost in the beauty,intricacy and complexity of his language,and laughing my guts out at every other page.Once I got hooked,there wasn't any stopping me.Every library and bookshop I visited was with the sole intention of getting my grimy hands on some Wodehouse.It was a slow journey,and uptill four years ago,I had managed to get only five Wodehouse books.But that was before i got to ******(name protected for reasons of secrecy).As I entered the library,my jaw fell as I saw rows upon rows of Wodehouse books.Just lying there in a cold damp corner.

Over the next two years,I read each and every one of them again and again and again.Then it was time to move to some new place,but my wicked mind couldn't bear the thought of letting all these treasures stay behind.So in a feat worthy of Jesse James and Robin Hood,I did what any right minded collector would do.That's right,I STOLE THE BLOODY LOT !!!!!

Over the course of five days,I smuggled a total of thrty six books from thye library to my home and hid them.The only reason I'm not in a kaboos is that the library staff were so negligent that they didn't even know those books existed in the first place.So,I had a sizeable stash,but some were left behind,and there they lie to this day.And each day my heart bleeds at the thought of those that were left behind.But not to be outdone,I went there again this month.Just walked in with an airy nonchalance,nodded to the librarian,went to my old spot ....and shoved a couple more in my trousers.Then it was the walk back,again giving the librarian the most angelic of glances and walking gingerly so as not to drop my strategically placed load and I was out !!!

Now ,the Master wrote ninety books in total,and finally after years of collecting,I almost managed to break par yesterday.That is,I bought(didn't steal for a change) my 45th Wodehouse book.Almost,because belive it or not,just like in a Wodehouse story...somebody's stolen it !!!!

Song Of The Week,"Most Likely You'll Go Your Way,Bob Dylan
Movie Of The Week,"The Last Waltz
Book Of The week,"Sula",Toni Morrisson

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

...Of Me And John Denver...

You always remember what you were doing when you found out that Kennedy had been shot.That was way before I was born (but still a part of my memories though,as a previous post explained),but there are a lot of such momentous events that leave an imprint on your mind,like a sort of a time capsule,filled with all the sights and sounds and scents of that particular point in time.

October 13,1997.The day was a Friday,the old holiday,and the friday paper was in my hand.We were in Murree,the cold sunshine nipping through the trees.I was glancing through the paper when I saw the headline ,"John Denver's Travels Down Country Roads Come To Tragic End".I still remember my shock,and my wildly thumping heart as I showed the news to my dad.John was,as far as I know,the only english singer he ever listened to (to this day,alas),and he was terribly sad.It was more like a family tragedy like anything else..

Back when CDs weren't the ubiquitious little varmints they now are,and downloads were still something too frightfully distant to comprehend,artists like John weren't that easily available.I've still got those two bootlegged cassettes that one used to get from Bombeat Rawalpindi,the ones they used to record themselves.The green-sleeved one was the Greatest Hits Vol.1,and the red-sleeved Vol.2 These two little plastic contraptions were,the only english music I heard for the first 12 years of my life.

And the place to hear them was the car stereo.We are a family of road-trippers,heading off everywhichway for no apparent reason at all.And the musical accompaniement was to me (as explained in a previous post) the most important part of the trip.Driving along the roads,with Annie's Song playing is one of my clearest memories.Another one is bathing at the tube-well,with the sun blazing down,and me meditatively humming "Sunshine On My Shoulders".

Now,I have a thing with songs,that is I can learn 'em with just a listen or two (something I wish I could emulate with my studies).And John's songs were the first ones in my repertoire.My dad listened to him because he was melodic,infact something more than melodic.He gave you what the Eagles called the "Peaceful,Easy feeling".But I took a liking to him for something else,the words.The mountain ballads,the Colorado songs,the intimate dirges,all these are what started my love for singer-songwriters.

I only really "get" people after they're dead.In some cases because,well they died before I was born,and in others because that's when I first begin to get intrigued about them.That was the case with JD too.It was much later that I came to know of his other life.The fact that he was a trained,certified jet-pilot with over 7500 flight hours.The fact that he was the first western performer to be allowed inside Communist Russia and China.The fact that he was the Poet-Laureate of Colorado.The fact that he changed his name to the state capital.These facts,important in their own right,are mere embellishments for me.Embelishments on the many many hours of pleasure that I derived and continue to derive.

There's a couple of songs that I call my "life songs".Among them is the gem,"Leavin'On A Jet Plane".Released when John was part of the Chad Mitchell Trio in the sixties,it gave him his first songwriting creds.It's been covered (mauled) by many an artist.It is one of the most ironically poignant songs ever,considering the unfortunate deaths of both John and his first wife Annie in jet-plane crashes.They say music is prophetic of times to come.If that's true,then what an epitaph John wrote for himself...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

...Of Me And...

Although it will be a kick in the rear for my procrastrinating self,but it has to be done.It's been a long while since I've been blogging,intermittently at best,but with a consistency that surprises me.I have been thinking for a long time to write pieces (if you can call them that) on people,things,cultural artefacts et al that have affected me.

It is cultural artefacts,after all,that I count among the most important baggage that you take along with you in life,the most reliable indicators of personality.I'll take a lead from the wonderful "High Fidelity" (another cultural artefact) where John Cusack's character says out loud once and for all that self-evident truth.That it's not the personality,the attitude or the outlook that so defines a person as is the little go-betweens; his favorite band,his most prized book (if he/she reads at all),the music,the books,the movies,the idiosyncratic trivialities that form the basis of future relationships.Of cours I may be wrong (though I'll be the last to admit it)..

So,in an attempt to define myself on the basis of these trivialties,I'll try to recall all the touchstones of my past,from my initial introductions to the long and winding road that I've travelled with them.It'll be an effort,I'll have to rouse my lazy self and get these words on to the keyboard.It'll be an achievement indeed if I succeed...

Song Of The Week,None,goddammit.My discman's broke
Movies Of The Week,"Wild Strawberries",1957 "Rosemary's Baby",1965
Book Of The Week,"My War",Andy Rooney

Sunday, August 5, 2007

...Of Nostalgia ??

Nostalgia ?
No,that's not it.
Isn't nostalgia for the times you've lived through ?
For things you've seen,things you've felt in your own lifetime.
Yet these things are not mine.
These snippets of song,these flashes of light and dark.

I was not there when they shot Lincoln,
Or was I?
So why do I have a faint recollection;a gunshot,a scream,a bounding leap.
Sic Semper Tyrannis !!
Or when they shot Oswald,or Garfield or Wild Bill Hickock...

When they first showed Nosferatu,or Casblanca or Pyaasa.
I wasn't among the teeming crowds.
I wasn't in the art-house cinemas where Bergman The Lion roared,
While the audience smoked and tried to deconstruct his pain.
These grainy relics are not mine.

When Rafi cooed in Bombay,I wasn't there to listen,
Nor was I with Cash,or ol' Muddy,or Bob 'n Joanie.
But I was there..
I tell you I was there,right beside her,right beside them all.
But how's that possible,and why am I missing them ??

I've never been to Wooster's London,or Lake Wobegon.
Then why is it that all my friends live there.
Long gone friends,long dead friends.
But still alive,still full of elan.

If these aren't my memories,why are they mine?
Why are these foreign emotions more personal than my own ??
And why do I sit staring at them,staring at the dates,
My own life seeming trivial before these swathes of time...

It can't be nostalgia,can it?Isn't nostalgia supposed to be personal?Well,this is personal,isn't it ??

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

...Of One Final Trip

It's the darkest hour of the night.The usual night traffic rolls on by while everything stand still.But there is still some life stirring someplace.Under the shadow of Chauburji,there sits a lone bluesman smoking pot.Wearing his worn down hat and his beaten up shoes,with barely a shred in between,he lovingly nestles his slide guitar in his lap.Polishes it with his dhoti,spits away the guthka and starts to sing...

"I got the rickshaw jitters,man they's messin' up my mind

Lawd I got them rickshaw jitters,they's done mess'd up my min'

I feel that shakin' in my bones Lawd,right down to my intestines !!"

With the last week of the holidays upon me,there was still time for me to drag my bootheels a' wanderin' again.Having learned nothing from the gut-busting hikes in the Northern Areas,I was off again.This time it was gonna be a trip to the plains,Lahore to be precise.It was gonna be a train trip from Pindi,two nights in lahore and then back home again.It shoulda taken two days,ended up spanning over four nights...

The first night was a surreptitious trip up to Islamabad.Surreptitious because I would never have been allowed to go there with the whole Lal Masjid drama going on.But go there I did.Now,Islamabad's a pretty organized place,and that's what numbs my brain.I'm a pretty disorganized person,and it doesn't take much for me to get completely lost.And that's exactly what happens everytime I go to the capital.But before getting lost,I managed to run into the mother lode of good luck.An hour later,lugging two thousand rupees worth of CDs and DVDs,griining like a Cheshire,I rode out to eat.

And this is where my GPS handed in the dinner pail.Now I knew,and my friend knew that there's just one darn Pizza Hut in the whole of Islamabad,but for the life of us we couldn't find it.At least ten times 'round Jinnah Super,and almost as many around Super Market left us dizzy,hungry and queasy.At last,giving up,we went into a KFC for a burger and that's when we found out,those damn Pizza Hut buggers had closed down the joint two weeks ago.It was midnight when we set out to my friend's house,knowing full well that the train to lahore was at 7.30 the next morning.So either we were gonna miss some sleep,or be late for the train.

In our ever-obligin' way,we managed to do both.Stayed up half the night,and had to run like blazes to catch the train.And even then,the adventures didn't cease.Now how were we to know that there were two trains to Lahore,and how were we to guess that they both looked the same,and both were rearing to go.To cut the long story short,we got into the wrong train,and realized our mistake at the very last moment,sending us runnin' crazy across the platform to the right train and to the comfort of our seats.And comfort it sure was,a credit to the Railway department.Five hours later,(it was a local train,dontcha know) we were in Lahore.

Now there's something in the Lahore air.A mix of petrol,lavender,sweat and soil,it freshens up a man like nothing I've known.Leaving me at the Mess,my friend went out to meet some of his relatives while I slept.When I woke up round about six,I still couldn't find the bugger anywhere.Turns out he was gonna be out till nine,leaving me stranded.I stood it as much as I could,but finally decided to take matters into my own hands and set out to meet an old College friend of mine.Now I know there must be thousands of rickshaws in Lahore,but I couldn't find a single one.

There's something in my demeanor that sorta invites confidence.People look at me and say, "Say,this here looks like a nice chap.Sort of decent,well behaved lad,dontcha think.Let's ask him for directions !!"

And they stop,roll down their windows and ask me the way to such-and-such.And I bend down,look 'em straight in the eye,flash my most charming smile....and send 'em off to god knows where !!

At least five cars stopped to ask me for directions,and unless they ran into a bit of luck,they might still be wandering listlessly across Lahore,trying to find their way back home.Thus a word of warning,do NOT ask me for directions.Ever.

I finally managed to find a rickshaw,and headed out to Jinnah Hospital,where I was to meet this friend of mine.It had been ages since I had ridden one,and it was bloomin' good fun.My innards got the churning they deserved,and any earwax I might 'ave had must have perished in that magnificent wall of sound.Finally I was at the rendezvous point,waiting for my friend to come.

Now,I'm a cad when it comes to keeping in touch with friends.All through my life,as soon as we moved to a new city,the old friendships were ancient history.I used to,and still evade any contact with some of the best friends I ever had.So it was by a bit of effort that I got around to hooking up with a bunch of old acquaintances.Meeting up,exchanging pleasantries,we set out towards my first destination,a bookstore.Now the only nice place I had heard about was Readings,Main Boulevard,and that's where I headed.Excellent place,nice ambience,great books,(I bought seven!),and bloomin' cheap.Try to imagine eighty rupee books in Islamabad or Rawalpindi and you'll understand my excitement.My errant friend and his cousin hooked up with us and we set out to eat round about midnight.A hearty meal,and a good night's sleep,and that was that for the first day.

Sunday was Tourist day,sightseeing day.The museum,the fort,the mosque.And that compulsory trip to Iqbal's tomb.The fort's in pretty bad shape from when I last saw it,but the Masjid's as beautiful as ever.Strange bit of irony that Chinese tourists are allowed in the mosque,and we can't enter the adjacent Gurdwara.Ce la vie...

Another hooking up with a friend,and then to a couple of other places.Went roaming about NCA and FC College out of pure ennui,and then more shopping.I bought another bunch of cds as my friends' hair turned white at the thought of these fresh monstrosities that would eventually find their way to my hostel room,and hence to their tormented ears.Then it was a walk across deserted Defence,where a strange thing happened.As we were walking,a bike passed by and suddenly bust it's chain.I shrugged and passed on,found a rickshaw to take me back to the mess,but the driver refused,saying that the chain was broken!

Another mile of walking brought me to another rickshaw,this one with all of it's innards thankfully intact.We rode on home,weary but elated,when it suddenly stopped.The driver got out,did a quick diagnostic,and delivered the verdict,the chain's broken.Well,I mean really !! Finally we were back in our room,and slept soundly..

The final day was reserved for shopping for clothes,something I detest.But a phone call to another long lost friend saved the day.I picked up a couple of Dockers,and a bunch of tees,and that was it for shopping.Then roaming about Lahore,killing time till I had to go back,I realized what a nut I'd been in not keeping in touch with all these lads.Finally it was time to head home,and I boarded the Daewoo with the song of the Chauburji bluesman ringin' in my ears...

"Well the rickshaw's a howlin',howlin' for all to hear

Lawd that rickshaw's howlin,n' it's howlin' for y'all to hear

It's turned my brain all to puddin'and it's a tricklin out ma ear"

Shopping For The Week,

A Bob Seger compilation
A Johnny Cash comp
A Leonard Cohen collection
Another comp of Cohen covers
A Joni Mitchell comp
We Shall Overcome,Bruce Springsteen
A Springsteen live bootleg
A Neil Young comp
A Jackson Browne comp
A Naushad collection
A Van Morrisson comp
And the latest White Stripes record,Icky Thump...

Dracula (the original 1931 film)
The Grapes Of Wrath
The Lavender Hill Mob

Sula,Toni Morrisson
Ovid's Metamorphoses
My War,Andy Rooney
Leaving Home,Garrisson Keillor
WLT-A Radio Romance,Garrisson Keillor
Two more for my friends...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

...Of The Great Summer Trip

If ever I have any children,a pretty slim chance,as I'll come to later,I know what I'll do on long winter evenings.
I'll sit the little buggers on my knees,give 'em something to eat so that they keep their mouths shut.And then I'll start my story...

"Today,me lads,daddy's gonna tell you the story of how he went on the first great trip of his life"

And they'll all squirm,look at each other and roll their eyes,as if saying,"Oh heavens,not again !!"

"Keep still you little varmints,and listen.This is how it all began"


I woke up in front of the PC.I had fallen asleep on the wicker chair recording the tapes for the trip to Shogran(see previous post).Grudgingly I put the final tape into the console and finished the seven hour recording session.Now was the time to pack.As always,mine was minimalist;a toothbrush,a Vonnegutt and my cellphone,plus the trusty inhaler for emergencies.The three cars were soon loaded up as we set out round about one in the afternoon.And this is where all the headfone-wearing bore its reward as Abida Perveen blared from then stereo.My cousins,caught unawares,quickly covered their ears and hid for cover...

We rolled along,smooth as can be,and by and by we came to Balakot.It's been one and a half years since the terrible earthquake of 8th October,but the land still hasn't healed.The mountains lay bare their scarred and bruised bodies everywhere one looked.The city itself was a jumble of blue-roofed prefab homes,a sign of the world's generosity.The Kunhar,the red river,still flowed in all it's roaring majesty.It cut and clawed at the already ravaged land,forcing a new path for itself amid all the sliding and slipping rock.

We passed on,along the makeshift one-way bridges.
The roads,once glistening two lane affairs,were utterly ruined.At places,almost unpassably dangerous,it was a miracle that the three cars managed to navigate them safely,their prodigious cargoes intact.Finally,we reached better roads,amid wonderful foliage,and snaked up the road to Shogran.Here,one of the cars which had drawn the short straw and was carrying the,er most generous load,finally gave up.It refused to go any further,citing the Geneva Conventions,unloading all who sat(applying the term very loosely) inside.It was for the rest of tha caravan to take turns depositing the whole traveling party to their destination.I was urged(shoved) out of my seat to make way for one of the others,and waited by the side of the road for the car to return.I whiled away the time by admiring the magnificent foliage,especially the fern forests.

Finally,I was there,Shogran.At a height of 2500 metres,a vast green plain nestled among the mountains,looking out to the snow-clad Kaghan mountains.

Our accomodation was reserved in a marvelous Forest Department rest house,a lavish new building constructed after the original one had been destroyed in the earthquake.It was cold,calm and windy,in short perfect for Frisbee !! An hour later,invigorated by cold sweat,sitting out in deck chairs,sipping tea,I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.

The sun set over the mountains at a quarter to eight,and the twilight lasted another half hour.Our appetites whetted by the mountain breeze,not that mine needs any whetting,I quickly wolfishly gulped down a hearty dinner,and had mangoes afterwards.(Just had to mention the mangoes,dontcha know !).
The night ended with everyone huddled up in the giant sitting room for a sing-along.Nano couldn't stop laughing at all her brood singing themselves silly in the night.then it was time for bed..


I was woken up at the ungodly hour of 4.30 am,and went out into the biting cold to watch the sunrise over the snow-clad mountains.My dad had assured me that it was going to be worth the lost sleep.Unfortunately,the clouds had different plans,and crowded out the whole east face,turning it into a kaliedoscope of light and shade,like something Rembrandt would have turned up if he had decided to take up landscapes.A single glimpse of the sun was all that was afforded us in that sunrise.

That day was earmarked for a trip even higher to a place called "Sarri Paye",a series of two mountains that in their confusion,had gotten topsy turvy,with Sarri on a lower altitude than Paye.We were all urged to partake a hearty breakfast,especially us dunces who had volunteered to forsake the jeep trail in favour of a nine kilometer hike.Me,my brother and the most,let's say,well endowed cousin collected the camera,the water flask and a pack of Wrigleys and set forth in advance of the rest of the family who would follow in jeeps up the trecherous track.My brother,the sly devil,quickly ran off ahead,leaving me to lumber up the mountain with my cousin at snail's pace.The poor sod would stop every ten paces with pitiful cries of"Ouch,my legs!","Ouch,my knees!","Ouch,my feet!","Ouch,my bum!"
Anyway,we trudged along.It was a sheer climb,slippery,steep and muddy,with not a bit of plain level track along the way.But it was as beautiful as could be,with vistas opening up at every bend,revealing the fabulous valley below in splendid detail.

The mountain sun blazed on my neck all along.the trek seemed to be never-ending,with every bend in the road exposing further stretches of the track.Halfway up,just as I was fed up with my cousin's whining,one of our jeeps met us and picked him up,thus relieving both of us of our misery.Instead,dad got out and decided to keep me company for the remaining four and a half hours.It was a very difficult hike,but we finally managed to make it to the top,albeit not without a heavy price.The damage my,ahem,family jewels took on the way set me halfway along a future devoid of the pattering of tiny little feet in the tiny little homestead.
But what awaited me on the top was well worth the sacrifice.As I trudged my now insubordinating limbs to the crest of the peak,a marvelous sight awaited me.Acre upon acre of the most flat,the most green,and the most flower-carpeted terrain I had ever seen.It was colourful enough to burn my retinas,after they had been greyed into oblivion by the mundane terrain of the plains.there were little lakes of rainwater,each fifty feet across,clear blue,with the green of the moutains reflected in them.All around were sheer drops into the valleys down below.

And that was not all.For rising from the plains was the Crab Mountain,"Makra" to the locals,which was still wearing a tattered mantle of last year's snow.All that snow re-awakened our hiking spirits that had been dampened somewhat by the nine kilometer climb.

Taking an empty water bottle,we wowed to trek up the mountain and bring back some of the snow.It was farther than we had thought,a total of five kilometres.Finally we reached the snow.It was dirty,in a rocky depression quite a long way down,and difficult to reach,but we were nothing if not resilient.We finally managed to gather a fistful of snow and brought it back like spoils of war.

We finally managed to gather a fistful of snow and brought it back like spoils of war.After three hours up at "Paye",we headed down to"Sarri" for a traditional mountain lunch,again courtesy the forest department.A mix-up with the jeeps meant that there wasn't anyone to bring the rest of the family down to "Sarri",and they all trudged down in groups of two or three.Everyone was tested to their limits,most of all,my Nano.She's hypertensive,diabetic,and as she let everyone know along the way,well versed in the choicest Punjabi expletives.Everyone was worried out of their skins at the thought of her climbing down the steep tracks and heaved a huge sigh of relief when she made it to "Sarri" safe and sound,although a little worse for wear.Everyone attacked the food with gusto,especially the silly hikers.
In a moment of madness,I had decided to opt for the jeep,instead of hiking down,thinking that my knees had already taken enough of a beating.I had thought that the trip in the jeep would be tranquil compared to the gruesome hike,instead,it put the fear of God into me !!The jeep swayed and rolled,jumped and flew down the bends that seemed ten times more treacherous.All the while,finishing the good work that the upward hike had started on my,er,you-know-whats.That's the moment I resigned myself to a life of sterility.I got off halfway,and in damage control mode,hiked very gingerly down the slopes.Once again,the valleys were generous in the views they provided me.

I dragged myself back to the hut,and fell headfirst onto the bed,thinking I would never regain the use of my battered legs after a total of 23 kilometres up and down the mountains.Elsewhere around me were similar sights to see.Everyone was nursing their legs,arms and other assorted body parts.I lay down that night expecting a deep,healing sleep.Instead...


I woke up at two in the morning to the scariest sound I had ever heard.Gale force winds were tearing through the rafters,with sleet crashing on the windows and awesome flashes of lightning that burned up the whole sky.I dozed off again,waking up on the final morning of our trip,expecting to see signs of last night's tempest.But a different sight awaited me as I stepped out into the bitter cold morning.The sky was clear,the distant mountains were fully exposed and bore on their backs a sparkling white burden of fresh snow.Hitchin up my sagged jaw,I called up the rest of the family to feast their eyes on the sight.

That sight,with the whole clan,the oldest member at 66 and the youngest at 5 summers old,gazing in awe at nature's handiwork,capped off a wonderful trip..
A few parting snaps,and we loaded up our stuff to head back.Thankfully,the road back passed without any incident.We stopped in Balakot to offer Fateha at the grave of Syed Ahmed Shaheed,who had laid down his life back when Jihad really meant what it meant.After that it was a smooth drive back to Abbottabad,with wonderful music playing all along the way.
"So,that me lads,is how your old dad went on the first great trip of his life.Wasn't it exciting,eh lads?."
"Lads ?? Where've you run off to ??"
"Lads,LADS !!"
N.B,All the photographs were taken from my mobile phone,apologies for the picture quality.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

...Of Road-Trip-Music

The "BIG SUMMER TRIP" is upon us finally,praise the Lord !!.

Sitting at home watching barnacles grow on my derriere,although an admirable pursuit,soon loses charm.And with a brigade of seven cousins,two uncles and two aunts straining at the bit,things start getting cagey unless some excursion diverts the attention.So,tomorrow,taking advantage of the strategically placed Long Weekend,I'm off.Off to Shogran,as pretty a place as can be.The sleeping bags,long mothballed,finally get their moment in the sun,or rather moon.The picnic baskets are being packed,the motel reservations completed.The three cars are being prepared for the ordeal of their lifetimes,namely,lugging 600 pounds of prime Sargodha meat and sinew up the most treacherous roads in Pakistan.May God have mercy on their souls...

The best part of the summer trip ?

The respite from heat ?

The beauty of the magestic mountains ?

The basketfuls of mangoes ?

The music playing along the way ?
Spot On !!

One of my oldest memories is driving down the old Jhelum bridge one night,just me and my dad,with Faiz playing in the car stereo.Then there's the Elton John album that was playing one rainy morning when our car skidded on a road in Chakwal and hit a tractor.The first time I heard John Denver singing,"Country Roads" somewhere in the foothills of Murree.Jagjeet Singh,Kishore,John Denver,Faiz,Faraz,Ghalib...the first time these names entered my mind was in the back seat of a car when I hesitantly asked dad to turn up the volume and asked him who that voice was.

It's been a vital part of my education,this roadtripsong.How many couplets have I heard,only to be asked a moment later by dad to paraphrase or explain it.My many stumbling responses awoke the appreciation of poetry in theHow many folk songs have I listened to,trying to make sense of the obtrusely elegant Punjabi,only to be revealed in wondrous detail on the next trip.How many songs are part of my family album,just because Nana hummed along with them,or Dadi Amman rememberd them from a Bioscope seen long ago...

Soon the tide turned.It was now my job to get the music for the roadtrips.Dad was introduced to Clapton,Sinatra,Lobo,Ella and many more via me.I was told to take trips to Islamabad to buy this CD of Kafis from Lok Virsa,that cassette of Talat Mehmood from Bombeat etc.And then there's today...

Daunted by a five hour trip up the mountains accompanied by a bunch of noisy kids,dad's asked(read ordered) me to make five tapes of his favourite stuff out of all the tons of stuff in my PC.After two hours of exhaustive selection,I stand ready to make these tapes ala High Fidelity.To make 'em,tentatively titled "The Tripped Out Tapes Vol 1-5",I've been presented with a behemoth of a recording console.It's old,it's clunky and it's short circuited,and I have before me at least six hours of headphone-wearing,monitor-staring fun.Here's to making music..

Song Of The Week,"If You Gotta Go,Go Now",Bob Dylan
Movie Of The Week,"Invasion Quartet",1961

Friday, June 29, 2007

...Of The Start Of The Summer Holidays

The first day of the summer holidays.

You wake up at five in the morning.An ungodly time,a relic of those disturbed sleep patterns that I detest the most about examinations.

Outside,the mountains are shrouded in white mist.You nibble on a couple of fresh plums from the kitchen garden,inhale a gallonfull of mountain air and say to your immortal soul;

"I say,old chap!Jolly good place this,innit? Smashing weather,what?".To which the jolly old immortal soul replies,

"You said it,old horse.Topping weather.Topping !!"

A sudden rush of Pickwickian benevolence gushes through you as you think of all your chums sweating it out on the plains.A couple of phone calls,and they're all invited for a trip to the hills.You lounge back in the deck chair,with a feeling of "something finished,something done".Pick up your Kerouac and smile in the expectation of a nice hour of reading,when suddenly,there is a car outside.

Me;"I say,any idea who that could be,old I.S?"

Old I.S;"I'm as blank as you,old horse.But I'm getting a rather sinister feeling..."

Then I see the first one.Then another,and finally the whole clan.


As seething horde of humanity streams through my gate,it seems that the whole family have suddenly realised four things.

1.It's way too hot down here in Sargodha

2.It must be much cooler somewhere higher up,like say,Abbottabad.

3.Hey,dontcha know,we've got a relative up there.And doesn't he run some kind of school?

4.Come to think of it,aren't our children just at the schoolgoing age?

It doesn't take Einstein to add it all up,and Voila !!,here they all are.In a mass exodus from Sargodha,a host of Uncles and Aunties and Cousins and Maids and Servants.
Fat uncles,rotund uncles,obese uncles,portly uncles,each one a marvel of creation.And the aunties...
Once they were the meaty Mutiaars of Punjab.Now there's no sign of the mutiaar anywhere,only meat.And plenty of it.
And then there are the cousins,those little critters with fish-like goggling eyes.They stare at you,as if saying,"Here I am smearing marble cake all over your computer,tearing up all your Wodehouse,and there's nothing you can do about it."It's not that hard to break under the strain and give them ten of the best with the backside of a hairbrush down where it would do them the most good.But no,we've got to keep it together,ain't that right old soul?

"Absolutely right old horse.It's just not done,just not cricket.Stiff upper lip,old top.Stiff upper lip !!"

Now I'm not saying I don't like my relatives.But there are cousins,and then there are cousins.There are those with whom I've spent my childhood,played with them,ran with them as grandpa's sandals whistled past our ears,stolen their fruit,twisted their ears,and this creates a bond.And then there are those,whose faces I have never before seen.And in the case of a couple of Winston Churchill-Boris Karloff combinations,faces I wouldn't ever want to see in my lifetime.

But it's not all gloom and doom,fair reader,because these uncles and aunts don't come empty handed.They bring MANGOES !!

Crates upon crates of those golden delights fill our kitchen.I had thought that getting posted up here in Abbottabad,I'd be deprived of these wondrous gifts of summer.But no,this sudden onrush of visitors has brought me mangoes beyond my wildest dreams.And that's not all.Three course meals morning,day and night.Souffles and trifles and cakes and creams,enough to stock up on blubber for two or three winters.

As I write this,the rain is incessant.The mountains are all hidden behind the roving clouds and I'm thinking up a rather beastly rhymed abomination that shows my fevered state..

The 'lectricity's gone and the raindrops patter
As the uncles smoke and the cousins chatter
While I stuff my face and keep getting fatter
'S wonderful up here but that doesn't matter
Cuz a few more days of this,and I'll be as mad as a hatter...

I.S.,"I say old horse,was it you who wrote this bilge?
"Yes I was old top."
"Tsk Tsk,I think you'd better lie down,old boy."
"I think you're right,old chum.I'd better lie down"

Movie Of The Week,"Rosemary's Baby"

Books Of The Week,Finished: "Dear Me",Peter Ustinov.Started,"On The Road",Jack Kerouac

Song Of The Week,"Kaun Aya Mere Man Ke Dware",Manna Dey

Movie Dialogue Of The Week,Peter Falk,"Surely,you can't be serious."
Leslie Nielsen,"I am serious.And don't call me Shirley !!"

Monday, April 30, 2007

...Of Many Things Actually !!

It's official.I'm nuts,NUTS !!!

I remember those geometry theorems we used to do in Tenth Grade(oh how I hated geometry),where you had to prove the damn thing by a set of logical steps,and in the end you wrote in bold "HENCE PROVED".Well,it's darn well "hence proved" that I've lost my marbles.And I'll prove it too,just like those sick theorems of yesteryear.

I have these exams coming up see.Big exams.Mind numbingly important and excruciatingly difficult.The make or break kind of exams.Now what would the normal,sane,responsible student(let's call him say...Wilberforce !!),what would Wilberforce be doing at this point in time ? Unless I'm much mistaken,old Wilberforce(Billy to his friends) would be buried neck deep in his pharmacology and his pathology,and if he was criminally studious,his forensic medicine(assuming of course that he was a third year Med student like me).With no time for even the littlest diversions,young Billy would have locked himself in his room with his books,only appearing late at night to answer the call of nature,and even then with a bunch of notes under his arms....

But does yours truly follow brave Billy's noble example and plunge himself headfirst into his notes and his books? No,he darn well doesn't !!!

Well,I'll tell ya what I did.I watched movies.High Fidelity was the first.Absolutely loved it.It just made me realise that I'm not the only one who's a musical snob,and because it had two Bob Dylan songs in it.I never realized how beautiful "Most Of The Time" was till I heard it in the movie,and "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You" sounded just like it should.

Some silly loon at the cable company sealed my fate by showing the classic movie channel TCM.talk about manna from heaven...I watched "Little Ceaser",the brilliant 1931 gangster flick starring Edward G. Robinson.The Treasure Of Sierra Madre,The Cincinatti Kid,A Streetcar named Desire,North By Northwest and a lot more.All these films left indelible marks on my mind,giving me hours of celluloid satisfaction,but that doesn't translate into exam grades now,does it.

Then there was the football.My bloomin' team had to play all the most important matches of the year in my exam days.Now I was at the crossroads.Freshen up my Pharma or watch Manchester United nick it against Milan at the absolute last minute in one of the greatest games of European football in years.Polish up pathology or see us go from 2-0 down to win it 4-2 in a match that could give us our first league title in years.No prizes for guessing.

And finally there was Bob Dylan.Now I'm a download fiend,and not a weekend goes by without me downloading one new Bob Dylan album.Plus there was the added excitement of his brand new single that was gonna be released on the 27th(which,by the way is stunningly beautiful)Burning internet cards by the dozen,I managed to download three complete albums and hiked my album tally upto 19.Plus there were the rare songs,the movie soundtracks and the constant checking up on his concerts.The high point came last night,when I saw the brilliant "Pat Garret And Billy The Kid",with young Bobby in his first role.And what a start he got.After standing conspicously silent for half an hour,he finally spoke a line. Pat Garret asks him,"Who the hell are you ?",to which he nonchalantly replies,
"That's a good question !!".

I swear there never was anyone as sublimely cool as old Bob.

So,I don't have to overemphasize the fact that I did the exact opposite of what our friend Billy would have done.

Songs Of The Week: See Ya Later,Alan Ginsberg,Most Of The Time,Tell Ol' Bill,Huck's Tune.All by Bob Dylan

Movies Of The Week:High Fidelity,A Streetcar Named Desire,Little Ceaser,Pat Garret And Billy The Kid

Discovery Of The Week:HENCE PROVED !!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Of Breaking Even,Almost !!!

In our farmhouse,there's this big red trunk.It is full of my father's bibliomaniacal treasures.Scores upon scores of books,of every description,size and shape.some of the best hours of my village visits are spent browsing through it,and each expedition brings forth new gems.As I grow older,my finds have ranged from Huckleberry Finn to Ben Hur to Bertrand Russel to Rousseau.But there is one find that I count among the best things that ever happened to me,truly a liofe changing experience..

It was eight years ago,as far as I can recall.Having derived all the possible pleasure out of watching a bunch of supercillious cows,I decided to rummage the big red trunk.I climbed up to the top of the storage room,opened it up and started digging.After about half an hour of dilligent mayhem,I chanced upon a funny looking book.It was "The Girl On The Boat",by one P.G. Wodehouse.so,I took it out,lay on the bed and started reading.

It was five minutes into the read that something happened.Something strange.Suddenly,I was laughing,uncontrollably,hysterically and violently.Lolling around on the bed,with tears in my eyes,trying to stop my guts from busting.I just couldn't stop,try as I might.My mother gaped at this strange apparition and ran to call my father just as I fell from my bed and tumbled to the ground,still guffawing like the dickens...My mom wrenched the book from my hands and anxiously showed it to dad,holding it ever so gingerly like it was a deadly poison or something.A look of apprehension gave way to comprehension,as an understanding smile spread on my father's face and he said,"Relax Farree(my mum's name),it's just Wodehouse !!"

It's just Wodehouse,talk about an understatement.From that moment on,I have been enthralled by the Master's works,lost in the beauty,intricacy and complexity of his language,and laughing my guts out at every other page.Once I got hooked,there wasn't any stopping me.Every library and bookshop I visited was with the sole intention of getting my grimy hands on some Wodehouse.It was a slow journey,and uptill four years ago,I had managed to get only five Wodehouse books.But that was before i got to ******(name protected for reasons of secrecy).As I entered the library,my jaw fell as I saw rows upon rows of Wodehouse books.Just lying there in a cold damp corner.

Over the next two years,I read each and every one of them again and again and again.Then it was time to move to some new place,but my wicked mind couldn't bear the thought of letting all these treasures stay behind.So in a feat worthy of Jesse James and Robin Hood,I did what any right minded collector would do.That's right,I STOLE THE BLOODY LOT !!!!!

Over the course of five days,I smuggled a total of thrty six books from thye library to my home and hid them.The only reason I'm not in a kaboos is that the library staff were so negligent that they didn't even know those books existed in the first place.So,I had a sizeable stash,but some were left behind,and there they lie to this day.And each day my heart bleeds at the thought of those that were left behind.But not to be outdone,I went there again this month.Just walked in with an airy nonchalance,nodded to the librarian,went to my old spot ....and shoved a couple more in my trousers.Then it was the walk back,again giving the librarian the most angelic of glances and walking gingerly so as not to drop my strategically placed load and I was out !!!

Now ,the Master wrote ninety books in total,and finally after years of collecting,I almost managed to break par yesterday.That is,I bought(didn't steal for a change) my 45th Wodehouse book.Almost,because belive it or not,just like in a Wodehouse story...somebody's stolen it !!!!

Movie Of The Week:"The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1937)"
Song Of The Week:'Allah Tero Naam',Lata Mangeshkar'

Saturday, April 14, 2007

...Of Censorship and Kisses And Exams

Rarely does my weak ego get a kick in the rear that sends it sky high.But the recent blocking of blogspot by the Pakistani government had me flyin' to the moon.The reason? The reason was that my puny 'ickle blog was also blocked along with all the rest.And this awoke a sense of pride in me.Pride at the fact that I too can be counted among the few whom the government deems worthy of censorship,but my general feeling was that of ,how shall I put it,indignation.My heart bled for the millions (yeah,right) who hung on my every word,anxiously glued to their PCs .waiting for my next post,as I imagined their looks of dissapointment and ominous mutterings,unable to fathom the cause of my disappearance...Did I mention I had a flimsy ego ???

Anyway,I've been thinking of kisses,movie kisses to be precise.The old fashioned kisses,to be more precise.The kind where Errol Flynn climbed up the castle walls to be with Olivia de Havilland and stole a beautiful,tender ten second peck,while cheesy romantic music played.Not the modern variety,which looks more like a contest to determine who can finish off their partner's tonsils first,and get a bit of epiglottis for good measure.Seriously,back in those days,a kiss was just that,a kiss.William Holden and Nancy Olsen in Sunset Boulevard,one of the most romantic scenes ever.Bergman and Bogart in Casablanca,sublime.Even Brando in On The Waterfront...But now,sheesh !!

I've been through a lot since I joined my college.It's an Army institute,and I've had my fair share of physical punishment.In fact,more than my fair share.I've been made to stand,dripping wet,outside on a cold winter night.I've been made to crawl on asphalt till my knuckles bled.I've been made to do push ups all day long,while fasting,and with only three hours of sleep per day.I thought thhat was as tough as it could get,but that was before I encountered the biggest terror of them all....Exams.Believe me when I say that I would willingly,nay gladly go through all that physical regimentation crap twice over rather than sit for exams.And unfortunately that's just what's about to happen.From onday,I'm gonna be caught in a vicious cycle of exams that'll end on 24th of June..Hope I come out alive.

Movie Of The Week : Royal wedding
Song Of The Week : The Ballad Of Hollis Brown
Discovery Of The Week: I'm in love with Bette Davis !!!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

.....Of Pain

Every one has their own waking up rituals.Some just jump off the bed,fresh as a daisy.Others lie there,waiting in vain for a miracle to turn back the clock just one more hour so they can snooze some more.With me,it's just a quick stretch and I'm off.Never again am I stretching after today !!!
Woke up today with no premonition of the coming agony.Was just stretching a bit when out of the blue,something went Pop in my right ear!!.Suddenly a whacking great flash of pain shot up from my toes upto my neck,and stayed there.I couldn't move my neck one bit and all I could do was shout out HOLY CRAAAAAPP !!!!.And a fat lot of help that did.I had sprained one of my neck muscles really bad,and it was hurting like the dickens.After a lot of swearing,wheezing and hefting,I managed to sit up straight,one arm supporting my neck,with the elbow jutting forward like a rocket launcher or something.I called up a friend,woke him from sleep and asked (yelled at) him to come and take me to the hospital.
Now I've been acquainted with pain from my earliest days.After having been shot twice while out boar hunting,bitten by a snake,putting my finger in a meat grinder out of curiosity and having it's tip chopped off (i was seven,for pete's sake),you'd think I would take this minor misfortune in my stride.But each kind of pain is different.Sometimes it's that slight sweet pain you get when you've got a light fever,a little flu and lot's of ovaltine to keep you company.Sometimes it's that horrid,mysterious pain that comes out of nowhere and forces you to stand utterly still and hope you've not busted you're guts or something.Sometimes it's that silly niggling pain that just won't let you play football.This was of a new kind.The kind where you are completely paralyzed and each slight movement is rewarded by an electric shock putting you back in your place...
Well,holding my head at an ungodly angle I headed out to the hospital,wincing at each speed breaker along the way.The doctor at the trauma centre took one look at me and decided that I was bluffing,so he decided to confirm.A simple F%^%&^%#@^%!*$^*%& !!!!!!!!!!!! radically changed his views,and taught him never to touch my neck again.With a vengeful look in his filthy,leering eyes,he handed me a prescription,all the while muttering "That'll teach you". An injection,aah well,I was expecting it.So I uncovered my arm and braced for the needle.But no,I wasn't getting off that easy."Lie down",said the sadistic doctor,and I reluctantly lay down with a horid premonition as he applied his needle to you know where.
So,as I write this,i find myself in the singularly unenviable position of simultaneously having a pain in the neck,and a pain in the a**e !!!

Song of the Week ;Diamonds And Rust by Joan Baez
Movie Of The Week;Gigi (perfectly horrid)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

...Containing a sonnet of sorts

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day
Thou art more lovely and more temperate....

So begins Shakespeare's Sonnet 18,one of the loveliest pices of poetry,at least in the English language.I usually read it with great pleasure,lost in the melliflous,meandering mass of words.But recently,I discovered the fact that a single piece of poetry can strike you differently in different moods.

A few days ago,while in a particularly foul mood,i read the above sonnet,picked up pen and paper,and composed one of my own.Technically,it could be called a sonnet,but only technically...

An empty breeze,a scentless limpid breeze
A mere nothingness,a limitless vaccuum.
From whence arrived,a' sailing 'cross the seas
The caravans of your sublime perfume.

Where once you walked,the wretched raven crows
Time scurries by,where once it stood so still.
Throughout my heart, a silent tempest blows
A sudden void,no sign of life ,no thrill.

But no regrets,I find no sense of shame
No weary sigh,no frown can mar my smile.
When through my heart,it flutters by; your name
Does bring some pain,but only for a while.

A life of loss,a weary state of mind
No other friend could give a gift so kind.

Pretty horrid,innit??
Just another endeavour towards spreading soul searing poetry(read mind numbing bilge) on the internet.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

...As I Lay Dying

The silent,sibilant stillness speaks
in whispers,as the furious moon gives chase
To countless wayward,weary
wandering stars.
Across the barren sky.

What I have here's a motley bunch
Of outcasts,outlaws.Unpossessed
They've gathered round to bide their time with me
Once more,just like those old,familiar times

These friends of mine,this pain,this sky,this weariness
This fear and longing,desperation.
Still sit with me awhile,as simply out of courtesy
I keep on entertaining them as I've done all my years.

So I lay still,afraid to stir
For fear that my unknowing,unwelcome steps
Might cause them all to flee away
And leave me once again,alone with just myself.

An age I've lived,an age of hope,of love,of compromises
A weary path I've trod throughout
My travels in this life.

And now,as with all journeys,long
Or short,mine too is near it's end.
But still I can't let go so quick,leave all these faded relics
My pain,My fears,My guilt,My doubts to make do by themselves.

They all beg me to linger long
To keep them company just like I used to long ago
But peace awaits,and slumber calls
And this new journey beckons.

It beckons me to leave them all
My hopes,my loves,my steady friends
To let the relics fade away,along with all the rest
As I set off to sail the skies,
Become a drifter once more.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

...Of Sombre Springs and Silent Movies

Springs upon us.Already the sun's taking liberties and the Narcissus is disappearing,lost in it's own beauty.A recent trip to Islamabad(documented in the last post) told me full well that winter's packing up,leaving stray yellowing leaves in its wake.In a few days,my beloved cold,foggy,sleet blown mornings will be a thing of the past,replaced by the summer sun,rising in all it's furious majesty,in Faiz's words,reawakening the wounds of the night like a dagger.
Every year,spring's the start of my own kind of spring fever.Now the image I gleaned of spring fever was from the Wodehouse novel of the same name.Namely,when the heart,weary of drudgery and routine,longs for some adventure,some romance,anything to get it out of the rut of daily existance.That's how most of the young,or young at heart,feel when the buds start a'blossomin'.But not yours truly...
Now,I know my tastes are slightly stranger than the average Joe,but in spring I go completely haywire.A strange brooding melancholy engulfs me.The desire to lie low and stay there's foremost thought on my mind.Spring turns my thoughts to Dostoevsky,Johnny Cash and Rafi singing "Tukde Hain Mere Dil Ke".I'm a confirmed introvert most of the time,but spring sees me outdo myself in introversion.Wonder why???

Last night I returned from a shopping trip from a dvd shop that'd been raided a month earlier for copyright infringement.As it was the only shop in the Rawalpindi-Islamabad region that catered to my taste in films,the closure had hit me hard.But as soon as I saw it's bright neon flashing again,I made a beeline for it.After spending a whole lotta cash,I took my stash back to my hostel,where it was inspected by one of my dorm mates,who immediately declared me unfit for human consumption.The reason...my stash was full of silent movies.
Now why do I find these relics of a technologically deficient past so enticing?Why do those grainy three reelers hold me spellbound for hours upon end?Can I find a reason??
Yes I can,several in fact..But I won't be sharing 'em now.Some other time,when I'm fresh from seeing Nosferatu or Metropolis or Intolerance, you lot will be lucky enough to hear my views.

Song Of The Week: Ye Ab Aap Sochiye(Rafi and Asha)
Movie Of The Week: Bringing Up Baby
Discovery Of The Week: The Spellbinding Hiking Track In F7 Islamabad

Monday, March 12, 2007

...Of Yesterday

I woke up in a pretty foul mood.What with a cosmic mix-up of fate and circumstance,I wasn't allowed to go home on the weekend.The prospect of a whole sunday of idleness had turned my thoughts ugly and I was just lying down again,with the hope of drowning my grouch in sleep,when my phone rang.It was a friend of mine,telling me that a coupla guys were heading out to Islamabad to shoot a movie and I could tag along if I wanted to.Talk about Manna from heaven...

Took me 5 minutes to change,and while i was busy sprucing up,suddenly,I sensed a subtle change..It started with the faint patter of spring rain,then came the heady scent of rain-kist earth,and to top it off,the radio started playing Paper Moon by Ella Fitzgerald !! There was some hope in this world after all..

We set off on a trip that I count among some of the best I have ever undertaken.If I ever get to heaven(a pretty thin chance,if ever there was one),here's how I'd like it to be;

Driving along Kashmir Highway,with the spruce leaves turning bright red.Cold splashy rain drumming on the car roof,and the radio playing "Mere Dil Ke Taar" by Mehdi Hassan,followed by "Neend Mujhe na Aaye",by Hemant and Lata.I hope someone up there's noting down my order...
We alighted on the foot of the Margallas.While waiting for the rest of the filmmaking crew,we hiked up one of the hills.Again a glimpse of paradise,yellow leaves falling and flailing in the wind,the steady rain poking through my clothes and Naseem Begum singing "Dil chaahta Hai Mera,Kho Jayen HumYahaan"...
When the rest of the lot arrived,we set up shop.Me and the friend of mine got drafted in as extras,henchmen of a mafia don,complete with the necessary shades and firearms.All we had to do was follow the Don,grimace a bit and tote our guns,but yours truly hasn't won the Worst Acting Oscar three years in a row for nothing.
I was gleefully smiling all the way,winking at the camera. Then ther was a scene of me being gunned down by a sniper.Since I was wearing a borrowed jacket for that one,I rolled around pretty liberally till said jacket was dripping wet.Unfortunately,my jeans had also gotten moist in some pretty strategic locations(if you know what I mean).Once again the jacket came in handy.I can tell you from experience,there ain't no better absorbent tha a Vicuna jacket if you want to wipe your.....erm,you get the picture.
Then,saying goodbye to the filming crew,I headed off to do some shopping.Now the type of shopping I do merits my friends' name for me: "Maghaz".I set off to a record store and got my hands on some cds I had been looking for for ages.Since it was getting pretty late,and the rain wasn't letting up,and we hadn't eaten anything since last night,my friend's exhortions to speed it up were getting more and more vorciforous.But you can't drag a kid out of a candy store that easily,can you..
Having ditched 'em,enjoying the rain,my eyes caught sight of a "rare dvds" rack in a shop,and i zeroed in.Imagine my surprise when there,stacked before my eyes,was a bunch of DVDs I had been searching for since Time Immemorial !!! Boy,did I gobble 'em up!
Half an hour later,having spent 1700 of my hard earned cash,toting my shopping bags,I headed back.But sweet Mother Nature wasn't done spreading sweetness and light.On the way back,there was the same rain,the same brilliant foliage,and the radio outdid itself by playing Lata's "Mausam Hai Aashqaana".
As I lay down to sleep,with the steady rain knocking on my window,a happy dilemma presented itself.Should I fall aslumber with Nat King Cole palying Honeysuckle Rose.Or should Duke Ellington lull me to sleep with Mood Indigo.Or Should I let Joan Baez pray for me to stay Forever Young.In the end,I gave in to temptation and fell asleep with Ustad Barkat Ali Khan singing "Dono Jahaan Teri Mohabbat Main Haar Ke"
But that was Yesterday.....

My shopping list,if anyone's interested;
Cds by Joan Baez,Nat King Cole,Duke Ellington and A Faiz collection
Dvds,Bringing Up Baby,Two Marx Brothers flicks,Arsenic And Old Lace and the original Ladykillers...

Saturday, March 3, 2007

....Of Teeth And Such

I've got an old picture of mine,taken when I was an unsuspecting two year old(a pretty dirty trick,if you ask me).And I wince when i see it.No,no it aint one of those with the poor unsuspecting subject caught with his pants down(or in my case,with his pants off),though i've got plenty of those.It aint the one where i look like something outta a David Lynch horror movie,again my album's full of 'em too.It's just a simple portrait,me in my red overalls,digging in our lawn in Abbottabad,flashing my teeth like someone on the toot of a lifetime.The problem is that the teeth i'm flashing are,......wait for it,PURPLE !!!

Now how did that happen?Perhaps a freak radiation accident that turned me into "Maroon Molars Man" instead of Spiderman?A heady sip of Parker Ink?or a bite into an unsuspecting beetle(had many of those too)?Not really.It's a long story...

When I was born,my parents heard strange growling and shreiking sounds when I breathed.Worried(so would I be if i'da given birth to a tea kettle),they took me to a doctor who,in a moment of divine inspiration,diagnosed me with Asthma! Then started my parents' desperate hunt for a cure.Doctors,Peers,Hakeems, even Vets were tried,but to no avail.

And here's where my purple teeth come in.You see,when I was brought to the hospital,one of the more intelligent doctors found an excellent way to dispose off all the expired antibiotics that'd been piling up.Namely,to pump me full of 'em!!I was fed,injected and infused with gallons of the stuff,and in three months,the hospital stock was clear and my teeth were a rather lovely aquamarine.

Ultimately,the verdict delivered was that it'd wear off with age.As i'd grow older,the breathing would change in pattern from a rather sozzled Wildebeast to a wee little purring feline and ultimately become normal.Talk about the hoax of the century!!I'm gonna be twenty on Monday,and as i write,I've got my inhaler by my side and my breathing's as quiet as two hippopotamuses fighting it out on a sheet of tin in an earthquake...

It's not just the sounds.I could live with my own personal jazz band in my chest.It's the breathing itself that's turning my hairs white.Only an asthmatic(or a resident of Karachi) can understand the feeling when you inhale hard enough to bust your guts and no air comes in.And the exhaling's a whole different story....

Thursday, March 1, 2007

....Concerning Pity

In my last post I put forth a strange proposition.If anyone's got a sharp memory,they'll recall that I was propoundin' my views about pity and I said that my pity goes to the faded star...

In explanation i'll recall to mind Coleridge's Kubla Khan:
'For he ,who on honey dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise...'
That's how i characterize celebrities and anyone who's ever been in the Public Eye.Once you've tasted that moonshine,the taste lingers.public idolation's a heady drug,and the high stops the moment people move on to the next Big Thing !! And where does this leave Mr. yesterday? ....hung in the limbo of part fantasy,part realization that things sure ain't what they used to be,and part plain shock!!We all know that artists,or artistes if you prefer,are sensitive folk and this hits hard,real hard.

Remember Alexander and the Fountain Of Life,remember the weary,aged destitute wrecks who had tasted it in their folly,doomed to live for eons.Remember Sunset Boulevard,that eerie,horrific reminder of the ill-effects of celebrity and the lengths an appreciation starved mind can go to,to preserve any vestige of the Glory Days.Remember Mae West,with her face held up by copper wire,surrounded by paid gay hombres just to show the world that men still drooled over her.

Don't have to go far,the Land Of The Pure's self-sufficient in crumbling artifacts of celebrity,the people that time forgot! Remember Pathaaney Khan,Roohi Bano,Mujeeb Alam,Allan Faqeer anyone ??

That brings me back to my original rant,the Oscars.I was searching for the new object of my pity,the person who'd have his one chance at immortality and see it slip through his fingers,just to join that long list of "Guest Appearances By:" actors.Surprisingly,my eye set on Peter O' Toole.Now I know he ain't a Noboby,but the old lion didn't win even after his eighth nomination.With films like Lawrence Of Arabia,Lord Jim etc. behind his back,he's almost gauranteed legend status(something that's fallen into overuse these days).But I could see the longing,the hope and the ultimate dissapointment in his devilishly Irish(but faded and grey) eyes...

Song Of The Week : Talking Dust Bowl Blues,Woody Guthrie

Film Of The Week : It Happened One Night

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Of Pity and the Oscars....

Watched the Oscars yesterday,or rather,woke up at six in the morning and bunked two classes to watch the Oscars yesterday!! Now,i don't mean to insinuate that i'm an award show buff or anything.Although getting to see Rachel Weisz,Cate Blanchette and Kate Winslet look ravishing,elfin and ethereal respectively,and seeing Jack Nicholson's new hair-do(or hair-don't,whichever's more apt)were attractions enough,there were deeper reasons...
It's just that the Oscars recall to my mind a conversation I had with myself a long while back(fortunately or unfortunately,most of my meaningful conversations are with myself).

A winter evening,many years ago.There I was,sitting in front of my fireplace,sipping my ovaltine(happy days...),when a thought occured to me.Who,I asked myself,do youpity the most?,Who,among all the inhabitats of this sorry world,deserves your comisseration and understanding??

Is it the impoverished widow that begs for your indulgence,all the while tugging two filthy looking children in tow?Is it the bearded,bespectacled old man,all toothless and senile,hawking candy at the bus stand in the hope of finding sustenance for his family??Is it the unfortunate ten year old,who playing with a landmine instead of a toy,joins the legions of mutilated children in some war-torn street???

All fairly destitute characters,and all deserving of a soft spot,but I ended up with a strange choice,quite strange indeed...

I came to the conclusion that the most pitiable object in my twisted mind is the faded star!!!
The matinee idol,once the pin-up boy(or girl)of every teen in the land,the staple of gossip columns and movie magazines...now just another face you knew long ago,another extra in the B-movie nobody sees,another worthless drop in the sea of trivia questions...

The beauty queen,once gracing the cover of every glamour magazine and advertisement...now just the topic of the "whatever happened to...." conversations in fashionable society,trapped in the endless cycle of botox and facelifts...

The grand comedian who once had'em rollin' in the aisles,repeating his famous jokes,re-enacting his deadliest routines...now just another gag-man for a new generation of clowns.Punched,pinched,gagged,shoved and ridiculed by the succeeding jesters in the public court...

The crooner who once belted out tune after lilting tune to the screaming,worshipping public...now just a distant memory,enshrined in dusty LPs and faded publicity photographs...

Pretty strange choice,inn'it?

Harp on it a while,form your own conclusions,and wait a while till i offer my own twisted reasons...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

...Of Drunken Bears and Debuts

Imagine the alaskan forests.Imagine the mating season of the Grizzlies.Imagine a big,furious male Grizzly,all muscle and sinew.Now imagine him drunk on moonshine.And finally,picture him growling across the wilderness for his mate !!
That's how Tom Waits struck me the very first moment i heard him!!
I concede the fact hat I have been criminally slow on the uptake as far as my musical directions go.I was 16 before I heard Springsteen,!17 when I heard Bob Dylan,and 18 before i got wind of B.B. King,Ray Charles,etc...I mean i had heard most of them before,knew bout them generally and so forth,but i hadn't had my kaboom moment.(That's when i hear or see or see or read something and something in my head just explodes!!)
But the gaffe of the century was not discovering Tom Waits till the twentieth year of my nativity!!Well,i've set forth to rectify this error by getting his amazing new box set"Orphans,Bawlers,Brawlers....."And I can tell you for sure,i haven't had my senses explode like this for a long time .....
Well,for anyone who mighta been interested in the goings on i mentioned in my last post,here's an update.My song went off without any catcalls and so forth,hence i'm satisfied.The movie,although with poor sound also went off tolerably well.so all in all,a pretty decent debut by yours truly....

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

....Concerning Show Business

Lights,Camera,Action !!!
...not quite as simple as that,i'm afraid!A realization that came to me after one week of dabbling in the performing arts.

Such a harrowing,tiresome and mind bending experience is not for the weakof heart like me.A simple ten minute flick for the Class Function exposed me to the complete show-business menagerie;the meddling busybody,the prima donna,the harrowed director,the overworked editor and the pessimistic producer(that's me...).
Comprising a ragtag band of first timers,our lot managed to patch together a ten minute opus in four dreary,tense,but nevertheless exciting nights.The fruits of our labour will be shown tonight in front of a restless,hungry and entertainment starved captive audience.The final hours before the moment of truth....

And that's not all !!
In a fit of overconfidence(read insanity) I offered up my services to sing to the teeming masses.The song is the Bob Dylan tune "Knockin' On Heaven's Door",covered(mutilated) by many before me.An ironic choice of a song considering my imminent demise at the hands of yon audience.And to top it off,it's the first song of the night!!
And so,our unlucky hero finds himself caught between two mighty perils.Danger lurks at every step...
Will he survive?,Will the adoring public plead for more?,or will he return a mutilated,tomato tinged wreck??

All this and more in the next installment !!

Song Of The Week:Knockin On Heaven's Door

Movie Of The Week:Ours,of course !!

Discovery Of The Week:There's No Business Like Show Busines !!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Of Footballing James Deans And Blood Donations....

One of the greatest allures of James Dean is that he appears to us as a sort of handsome Peter Pan. A screen god who never grows old.Just as James Dean is preserved in memory ,in a glorious Time capsule of the Fifties,complete with his camelskin coats and the fateful Porsche Spyders;There is another giant.

A Giant in every sense of the word ;he is also remembered as a flower cut off in it's prime,a colossus that never was.I am talking about Duncan Edwards.
Most would try to rack their brains to think out that name from their memories,but don't fret. Those of you who know a bit about English Football might know his name.Those of you who don't,well here is a brief bio :
Duncan Edwards was born in the town of Dudley ,where to this day,his statue stands.He signed for MANCHESTER UNITED at the age of sixteen and played for five years.A stocky left back,he was the epitome of a perfect footballer.With two good feet,marvelous crossing ability and superb ball control ,he was almost a one man team;a stand-out in Matt Busby's galaxy of stars.
And then ,tragedy struck in 1958,when a Manchester United chartered flight crashed while taking off at Munich.22 people,including seven of the best of English football died instantly.Young Duncan fought valiantly for his life;but lost the battle.And aso passed away the player that Sir Bobby Charlton said,was the only player he felt,and still feels ,that he was inferior to.

Yesterday I donated blood.Not for the first time,but well,every time is a new experience.I had to wait three hours to complete my registration.Then half an hour more for the donation.And then had to trudge back to the hostel all bleary eyed and weak.
Now I know that blood donations are a noble deed,you are donating life to someone and all that,but the thing that caused me to give blood four times in the last one year is twofold.
Firstly I am in an Army institute and blood donations entitle me to three days bed-rest.And for a lazy bugger like me,that's enough of an incentive to donate blood.
And secondly,my flimsy ego gets a huge boost when a grateful ,teary eyed man comes to me to thank me for saving his wife's lifeall the while pressing on me the greatest accumulation of grub i've ever seen !!
Those of my pals who know me intimately ,know that I am no superhero or anything,and seldom do I find chances to ,well ,do something noteworthy.So,everyopportunity's a godsend !!

I did manage to get the gratitude part alright,but the bullshit was that I didn't get the bed-rest.Well ,you win some,you lose some.

Movie Of The Week:Judgement At Nuremberg

Song Of The Week:Motorpsycho Nitemare (Another Side Of Bob Dylan)

Discovery of the Week:Tom Waits (and what a discovery....) !!