Thoughts and other trivia...

Monday, November 06, 2006


This isn't the ideal way to start a post but, what the hell, I hate coming back from Bombay. On Thursday, going down the Western Express highway, returning to my friend's house in Bandra, it suddenly dawned on me that that was my last evening there. And, like other reminders, at other times in the past, that my time in the city was coming to an end, it wasn't such a happy thought. But, let's start at the beginning...

The morning after I reached Bombay, we went for our recce to Alibaug. For those who may not be familiar with the area, Alibaug is a sleepy, weekend retreat of the rich. A beach town, it's a 50-minute ferry ride from Bombay. It's about 135 km by road and, depending on the traffic, can take up to three to three and a half hours. The lazy bums that we are, we went by road.

We clicked a lot of photographs at the location we've chosen for our first episode but, unfortunately, owing to the contract and all, I cannot post them here. Not at the moment, at any rate. We think it's a good choice of location because most of it has great visual appeal. In fact, parts of it are quite stunning. Wish I could say half as nice things about the person we met there, who, although a very willing part of the swish set, tries hard to convince you that he's not. But, I'll reserve this for another post. Anyway, when we got back to Bombay, all thoughts about work were consigned to the back burner and the more important task of watching films at the Asian Film Festival took over.

Between October 15 and 19, we crammed in as many films as we could. Some of the films were plain crappy (for instance, the film from Burma, which my friend was able to view a little more sympathetically because he has spent a couple of years there as a small child), some were just about okay (like the Sri Lankan film) and some were wonderful (like Gu Lian Hua, or Love's Lone Flower, from Taiwan). Shohei Imamura's Warm Water Under a Red Bridge was, well, a little weird in its choice of metaphor and a huge departure from the director's The Ballad of Narayama, which I had seen many years ago. And, then, there were the films of Majid Majidi...absoutely brilliant! Along with his countrymen Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Majidi is responsible for the great respect that Iranian cinema enjoys in the world today.

Of the five Majidi films that were on show, sadly, I could manage only four. Beed-e Majnoon, or The Weeping Willow, was the closing film of the Festival and we could catch it only because, in a rare show of generosity, the organisers decided to have a second show of the film. It's about a blind professor, who regains sight after 38 years and how this completely changes not only his life but also the lives of those around him. Pedar (The Father) is about a teenaged boy who comes back home to find that his mother, a widow, has remarried. Bacheha-Ye Aseman (Children of Heaven) is a wonderful story about this brother and sister who, due to their financial circumstances, are forced to share a pair of shoes to go to school. In order to buy a new pair for his sister, the boy decides to participate in a race being organised among all the schools of the area. His aim is to win the third prize, which is a pair of shoes. And, finally, Baran (a girl's name, it also means rain) is the story of a young, teenaged boy, an ethnic Turk, who falls in love with an Afghan refugee girl at a construction site. In view of her circumstances, however, he keeps a respectful distance and does not profess his feelings to her. A poor construction worker himself, he blows up all his savings, and even sells his ID papers, which are invaluable for non-Iranians working in Iran, to find her the money she and her family need to return to Afghanistan.

What is so incredible about Majidi's films is that while they are very real, there's also something magical about them. They tell simple, everyday stories about ordinary people but, visually, the films are stunning and have a lyrical quality about them...sheer poetry in motion. If I had to describe the experience of these Majidi films in one word, I'd have to say it was enriching. The characters, their stories and the wonderful visuals stay with you for a long time after you've walked out of the auditorium.

And, going by the sheer number of people who turned up to watch all his films, it's a little hard to understand why more such films aren't on show at regular, non-Film Festival times and why we can't make such films. Anyway, the best way to describe the crowd that turned up to watch Baran at Metro, now revamped as a multiplex, would be to liken it to a pack of hungry wolves...we were elbowed and kicked, even cursed, by old men and portly ladies, each of whom wanted to be the first to get into the auditorium!

The day after the Film Festival, I went off to Pune for four days. On my return to Bombay, over the next eight days or so, we slogged over the script and managed to finish it by November 1, two days ahead of time. This allowed me the opportunity to go to Udaipur for a day, for a meeting that had been on the cards for a long time.

To catch the 5.30 flight out, I had to wake up at 3.30 am, which is bad enough under normal circumstances but feels much worse when you've only gone to sleep after 12.30 on the previous night. Thankfully, I was able to make it in time quite comfortably, although I have to confess I wasn't so kicked about the idea of making such a rushed trip. Anyway, while a cup of coffee and fresh lime are always welcome, I'm not so enthused about breakfast so early in the day. Therefore, I politely turned it down...only to regret it deeply. I was sitting next to these English ladies, who, as far as I could tell, were mother and daughter. After I'd refused breakfast, and they'd finished half of theirs, the old lady couldn't resist saying, to no one in particular, just how delicious she thought the stuff was. Being made of stern stuff, I was able to ignore the very audible lip-smacking the first time over and turn my attention to the view from the window, which, owing to the time of day and lack of sufficient light, didn't amount to much. But when she turned to her big-made daughter and repeated the d word, I felt the first pangs of regret stirring inside. Then, perhaps because she felt this overpowering urge to share her joy with her son/son-in-law, who was sitting across the aisle, she let out another loud proclamation of her appreciation. Everyone has a breaking point and this turned out to be mine, as I proceeded to kick myself for having missed out on a delicious meal. Pride, the single biggest failing of human beings, then reared its ugly head and stopped me from asking for breakfast...that, by then, tables had been cleared and the 54-minute flight was getting ready to descend, didn't help either.

As we neared our destination, the view from the window was rather nice: of neatly divided and cultivated farm holdings, of black, tarred roads, winding their way through the hills and snaking their way through the plains, of little water bodies and a largely, rocky terrain, dotted by clusters of houses. The drive from the airport to the hotel was incredible; at least the first half of it was, when the view on all sides was that of the lovely hills, which, at one point, stand just by the side of the road.

I was only there till the evening, spending almost every minute of my time either in the client's office or in my hotel room and, as a result, didn't get much opportunity to explore this city of lakes. However, I did get a good look at one lake and had a fleeting glimpse of another, which stood next to our hotel. Besides the view from the air, the lovely drive to the hotel, the two lakes, the undulating roads, especially in the part of town where we were staying, my other abiding memory of the place is that, in the total of one hour I spent on the roads there, I saw more women driving two-wheelers in Udaipur than I think I've seen in Delhi and Bombay. Isn't that amazing? Of course, this is quite common in Bangalore and Pune but, honestly, I didn't expect to find so many women driving scooters and motorcycles anywhere in Rajasthan.

It was while I was on my way back from Udaipur on the same evening, going back to my friend's house, that I suddenly realised that I had only little time left in Bombay. That I would be back there in ten-odd days was a minor consolation and helped to lift my spirits. I've been back in Delhi for three days now, which means there's only about a week or so to go before I leave again. In the meantime, we've had some feedback from the channel about our script and all seems to be going far. Apparently, they have some suggestions, which they will put forth in our meeting this week.

While I was away, I was tagged by Kundalini to blog about my current playlist. In no particular order, then, the songs I've been listening to most frequently these days are:

1. Walking on Air - King Crimson
2. Buckets of Rain - Bob Dylan
3. Music of the Night - Phantom of the Opera
4. You Don't Know How it Feels - Tom Petty
5. What If - Coldplay
6. Mary's in India - Dido
7. Not Dark Yet - Bob Dylan
8. The Ghost of Tom Joad - Bruce Springsteen
9. If it Be Your Will - Leonard Cohen
10. A Case of You - Diana Krall
11. Ice Cream - Sarah McLachlan
12. Away - Kathleen Edwards
13. Fade in Me - Imaad Wasif

I guess one was supposed to list ten songs but, I think, thirteen is a better number :-) Let me say just this about the playlist - if it isn't already obvious, it reflects the heavy Bombay hangover I'm still carrying.

Before I end this long post, let me also tell you about one of the highlights of this trip. My friend in Bombay has a dog...he's always had dogs...and when he's cooking her food, if I'm around, we've often discussed how attractive her food looks. And, how nutritious it must be. Of course, being vegetarians, we've only eyed the food before chicken stock and pieces of chicken/fish, etc., are added to it. So, to get back to the story, watching all those films at the Film Festival, which also meant a lot of travelling, we were often left with no time to cook or even grab a bite elsewhere. One day, just as we were getting ready to leave, wondering what to do about lunch, we decided that Girlie wouldn't mind if we had some of hers. And, that's exactly what we did...served ourselves some of her rice and veggie mix (pulao), which we then had with curd and pickle. Of course, we also had to add a lot of salt to it but it worked out quite well. Funnily, everyone we told this story to, including the friend's mother, was aghast. In fact, his mother felt so bad for us that on the following day, she cooked a very elaborate lunch for us. Wonder what the fuss is all about and why people are so shocked! It's only food after all, isn't it?


Blogger MockTurtle said...

Welcome back!
"Bacheha-Ye Aseman" - I guess Hindi does owe a lot to Persian after all.

8:57 pm  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

dogs live very well on saltless boiled vegetables with rice, btw. i bet half our countrymen would gladly take a helping for themselves. [that, as well as breakfast :-)]

not dark yet, oh but it's getting there

11:01 pm  
Blogger Sonia said...

lol@ english woman and her "big-made" daugther *grin*

and Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwww! you had dog- food?! i always knew you were weird, but this ... eww! even DOGS hate dog-food!

and you're worrying about having to stay away from bombay for a week when i haven't been there in AGES!?!

and WHERE are those pics??! picture's worth a thousand words and all, or haven't u heard?

12:30 pm  
Blogger Szerelem said...

aahh you are back!! =D
hmm i don't know what the fuss about eating dog food is's food isn't it?

Re MT,you mean Urdu. In hindi it would be Aakash no? Plus Urdu is a mix of Frasi and hindi anyway.

1:01 pm  
Blogger Essar said...

Awww! I'm sure she wouldn't have minded. God, once some of my friends had come over for lunch and (my mum wasnt around) i promptly served them what I later realised was the dog's pulav! My mother hasnt let me hear he end of it but really, it's just food!

6:32 pm  
Anonymous ash said...

Hey GOTJ. Hope you are doing well. :)

6:55 pm  
Blogger MockTurtle said...

@Szerelem: You're right, but what about bachche?

7:53 pm  
Blogger km said...

GoTJ: You were actually listening to GoTJ? :)

Ever tried one of them doggie biscuits? Bloody hard and tasteless. Yes, I like to live dangerously.

9:05 pm  
Blogger Bidi-K said...

felt so good to hear of another iranian film lover :) have you alaso watched the color of paradise? ... i too find those movies magical, grounded in grim reality yet so hopeful.

10:15 pm  
Blogger Szerelem said...

hmmm yeah. Well both languages are part of the same group, so they do have a lot of similarities. Just that urdu has a lot more in common woth persian (even Turkish to an extent). Plus in hindi a child is refered to asbal, balak, balika so on....
Oh well I am out of my depth hindi is terrible...=D

10:25 pm  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

but dog food? i hear they put in all kinds of deworming stuff that can get rid of worms that dogs get.m :)) But how was it?
Glad to have you were missed

10:44 pm  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

MT: Thanks, pal. Actually, you'll be surprised at the number of familiar words you'll hear in these films. Apart from 'bacheh' and 'Aseman', there's 'Gumshudah' (meaning missing or lost and pronounced as Gaumshudeh), 'Mehmaan' (guests), 'Pedar' (father, which is very close to 'pitah'in Hindi) and many, many morethat I can't recall now.

TR: Right about dogs loving this pulao but, I think, they need some help (read 'major coaxing') to start liking it :-)

Sonia: Dog food is just another name for food - all it had missing was salt and spice, which we added.

About the pix...I said I can't post them here but I'll mail some of the Alibaug ones to you. Don't have any Udaipur pix...wasn't enough time to click.

Szerelem: Yes, back! :-) Thank you for the vote of confidence on dog food! :-)

Essar: And, thank you to you too. I'm sure your dog didn't mind but what did your friends have to say? :-)

10:27 am  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

Ash: Hi! :-) I'm well, thanks. You?

Just where do you keep vanishing... still haven't got your blog going again?

MT: Like Szerelem said, all three - Persian, Urdu, Hidi - are, roughly a part of the same group. As is Arabic.

KM: Yup, tried dog biscuits too...many times. But, unlike the food, I don't care much about the biscuits - they're absolutely tasteless :-)

Oh yes, I love GoTJ...I mean the song and the character it's named after AND the book it's taken from :-)

Bidi-K: You too! Great :-)

The Colour of, that was the fifth film in the Festival and the only one I missed :-( You know me, Majidi's approach to films is very similar to that of Satyajit Ray.

Szerelem: 'Asbal' means child in Hindi? Really? Never even heard of the word... must check this out.

M: Thanks, you're kind :-)

About dog food...I was talking about the home cooked variety, with rice, plenty of veggies, haldi and daliya etc. Having said that, I doubt even the branded and packaged dog food that you get in the market has deworming tablets. You need to feed them those tablets separately :-)

10:41 am  
Blogger Szerelem said...

gah!! No, no not asbal!! my typos will be my ruination...I meant bal. You know?? Don't tell me you haven't heard of that! =P

11:04 am  
Anonymous ash said...

I'm doing pretty well. Thanks :)

12:13 pm  
Blogger ash said...

oh and I'm back on the blog circuit but I'm sorry I am still pretty writing love poetry and all that shit :P
leaving the link :D

12:14 pm  
Blogger ash said...

pretty much* darn these typos :D

12:14 pm  
Blogger Essar said...

My friends, yeah totally. Everytime I invite them over that's ALL get to hear. "Yeah and you'll give us your dog's food." What fusspots huh!

1:43 pm  
Blogger austere said...

Alibaug can't be nicer than Ganpatipule. Nothing can be nicer than G'pule. bah.

(Will now proceed to read the rest of the post.)

3:06 pm  
Blogger austere said...

Envy the movies.Must have been quite something.

3:17 pm  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

Szerelem: Hmm, the only 'bal' I've ever heard of is the fashion designer :-) Just kidding. I guess I should've figured out what you meant

Ash: Good to hear that your blog is back! And, don't worry...we like that shit and, moreover, when no one's looking, we try and write some of it ourselves :-)

Essar: Fusspots, I tell you. As far as I can tell, the only party that has any legit claims to hurt feelings should be the dog, no? :-)

Austere: Although I've been meaning to, haven't been to Ganpatipule...not eve when I was living in Bombay for so many years! Even then, I'm sure it is better than Alibaug :-)

Oh yes, the movies were great! You should try and catch the Italian Film Festival...starts on November 11, I think.

6:03 pm  
Blogger Essar said...

I know! Poor child had to go hungry

12:07 am  
Blogger Prerona said...

nice reading this :) so much stuff!
Abbas Kiarostami is the guy who did wind will carry us, right? i liked that, but havent seen anything else. wish i could see all that stuff right now though!

why were u surprised (at the number of women in 2 wheelers in rajastan)?

lol at ur treat. did it really taste good? i always wondered! mine eats such rubbish!

3:34 am  
Blogger Szerelem said...

Ganpatipule is amazing!! It is so tranquil and the sand is almost white...Tarkarli is nice also...

8:47 am  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

Essar: Don't tell me you deprived your dog to feed the friends! In Girlie's case, she can never be truly deprived because, not only does she get to eat her own food, you cannot eat in peace if she's around. Especially if what you're eating looks and smells like pao, toast, chapati...

Prerona: Yes, he made Wind Will Carry Us - that slightly Godot-esque film.

What you wish for is what we all wish for be able to watch all the films we want to. I'm off to Bombay again ext week and should be able to go out and watch more films during the Italian Film Festival :-)

About the number of wome drivers in Udaipur...first, it's a bit odd to me that their number is higher than the number of women who drive two-wheelers in Delhi and Bombay. Moreover, the Rajasthani society is a bit closed and entirely male dominated...I mean, more than average. So, I felt pleasantly surprised at the sight of so many women driving.

Dog food was...well, not great... but decet and nothing worse than what I eat on most occasions.

Szerelem: Hell! Now I have to go to Ganpatipule :-(

10:26 am  
Blogger austere said...

1:09 pm  
Blogger sattva said...

ghost, welcome back. as the no. of comments testifies, you were missed :) majid majidi sounds very familiar and for the life of me i can't recall which of his films i'd seen. u going back to bombay and STILL complaining..terrible :)

szerelem, tarkarli and ganapatipule are lovely, aren't they? we drove along the konkan coast from bombay once, and found these gems, as well as kunkeshwar, hari-hareshwar. kunkeshwar is small but stunning.

1:27 pm  
Blogger kundalini said...

i've been listening to some cohen myself. nice list. i like sarah's voice.

km and you are the only other people i know who have tried doggy biscuits.

6:19 pm  
Blogger J said...

i cam here expecting black and i see white instead. is that a sign?

8:01 pm  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

Austere: Thanks...will check it out.

Sattva: Thanks :-)

No, not cribbing even though I'm going to Bombay soon...just that, it's sad I haven't been to places like Ganpatipule and Tarkarli and this Kunkeshwar you mentioned eve though I've lived in Bombay for so long.

Kundalini: I listen to Cohen all the time :-) Yeah, I like McLachlan's voice too. About dog biscuits...well, didn't want to die wondering :-)

J: White is easier on the eye...bee meanig to do it for a long time BUT now that I've made the change, I don't like it :-) Expect another change soon...

And, about the sign...nah, it isn't a sign ofany sort. We're too shallow for that :-)

11:02 pm  
Blogger Sonia said...

there seems to be one thing that i find common in people who are from bombay but (are forced to) live in delhi.

they blog only in delhi!

Apparently, in Bombay, they don't *need* to blog.

is that your reason too?

2:13 am  
Blogger Szerelem said...

@sattva - yes, they are really beautiful and quite undiscovered as yet. We were travelling from Bombay to goa and stopped there on the way (also Ratnagiri and a few villages). The beaches are so amazing...the sand is almost white and no one for miles...havent been to kunkeshwar ...

11:19 am  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

Sonia: I don't know what kind of Bombay people you've bee mixing around with :-) but I couldn't blog because I didn't have easy access to a comp in working condition...friend's PC was down

Szerelem: Nice, go on and rub it in! Tell us how nice the place is and make us feel bad for not having been there :-)

10:49 am  
Anonymous driftwood said...

Eventful, was it? Visits to nice places, the high of being in Bombay, dog food and music! Most of those songs are on my play list, too.

I would've done a 'Ewwwww' as regards the dog food, but seeing 'curd' and 'pickle' in the same sentence made me smile. I think they are the best things to happen to the world, ever.

Yay! You're a vegetarian, too! We rock, don't we?

2:57 pm  
Blogger Sonia said...

i know i know! "I was just kidding" :D

but u did stop na! :P

11:21 pm  
Blogger Enemy of the Republic said...

Have you ever listened to Mazzy Star? I think you would like them. Try to find the song "Fade into You". That song, Not Dark Yet is a brilliant Dylan tune. He just gets better and better.

9:06 pm  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

Driftwood: :-) Agree with most of what you say, except that 'Ewwwww' part :-) It ain't that bad, you know...try it some time.

Yes, veggies rock! :-)

Sonia: Hmm, why do I get the feeling that you're NOT kidding :-)

EoTS: Guess what? The only Mazzy Star song I have ever heard is the one you mention - Fade into You - and, besides, I do have that song :-) Yes, you're right, I do like it. It's nice. About Dylan...well, what can you say? :-)

9:26 am  

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