Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Five Years ....

Only few days away from the year 2010, here comes a new post on my blog, ushering a new beginning. A new year is waiting to unfold just as rapidly as the year 2009 passed. Come Jan 2010, I complete 5 years of stay in Bangalore, more fondly known as Bengaluru. The city has so far offered me fond memories, multiple things to like, few things to hate as well.

I landed here on a cold morning in Jan 2005 to work as an intern at LSI Logic India Pvt. Ltd. Practically awake throughout the overnight train journey, waiting for Bangalore Cantonment; I left Chennai to get into bustling life of a working woman. Many of my friends from BITS, Pilani worked in Bangalore and a big group was involved in internship (part of our curriculum) too at Bangalore. Within a few days of my stay at Bangalore, I got it all, Cauvery emporium, Brigade Road, Corner House DBC, Sweet Chariot, MTR, Airport Road and Majestic.

Five years have passed, I continue to explore this city, its wide tree lined avenues, narrow streets filled with shops, its many parks and lakes, a city with a persistent charm, superb weather and a calm demeanor that has embraced me for 5 years, provided me work, shelter, food and fun.

Thinking back, I am urged to jot down five things I like about Bangalore. There are many more, but I am going to make an attempt to keep the TOP5 in the list below as a mark of completing 5 years in the city. Here they are –

1) Inner Ring Road – Might seem an absurd choice for the traffic that sprawls on it in the core hours, but I used to travel on it daily in Jan 2005 from Jeevan Bima Nagar to Bannerghatta Road to reach LSI office. Winding like a formula one track, seamless and of course slippery, with sight of airplanes flying so low, you could almost touch it, this road is a lovely artery. I have met with an accident on this road, so that leaves an element of awe mixed with fear in my head but I still give it the top spot. Inner ring road is first thing I liked in Bangalore.

2) Food – I can bet conveniently, there is no state in South India that offers such varied, tasty, yummy vegetarian delicacies as Karnataka does and in particular, Bangalore. Thanks to the city, I have gained many kilos compared to my college days. Be it the chocolate mousse cake of Sweet Chariot, the many juice junctions offering Butter Fruit shake (I hadn’t seen the fruit until I came to Bangalore), the many Sagar restaurants with busy people standing and gobbling Hot Idli Vada with sweetish, red sambar, be it a sumptuous MTR meal, Akki roti and Ragi roti of Halli Mane, Malleshwaram; Coffee at Brindavan, MG Road; Mangalore Buns and many other delicacies at Halli Thindi opposite Bull temple, ghee laden Masala Dosa at Vidyarthi Bhavan ... the list goes on, Bangalore is truly a foodie's paradise. I still cannot forget my first day at Shanti Sagar, Koramangala, when the server asked me – “Sambar aa Separate aa” and I blinked. Food at Bangalore is awesome, great quality and taste in highly affordable price.

3) Weather – Many times, I have thought along these lines – “Ohh, this dress, I wore it twice last week, guess can wear it once more before washing”. Never so hot, never sweaty, pleasant all the time, the city has high quotients of serenity attached to it. I pray, we all work to preserve this precious aspect of the city, for being a Chennai resident, I know how difficult it is when one experiences only hot, hotter, hottest seasons through the year. A long time Chennai resident may perhaps not know how to spell WINTER. Guess I got it right due to my stay @Bangalore. :)

4) Parks, lakes – Every area has many well-maintained parks, thanks to BBMP. I am trying to shed those extra kilos I gained by running in these parks. Beautiful lakes are strewn across the city – I have visited the Hessarghatta Lake, Agara Lake, Hebbal Lake, Ulsoor Lake and Madiwala Lake. I know that the number of lakes is fast diminishing due to ongoing spree of construction activities. Ironically, my office building is atop a lake. This is an open plea, please do not claim land from lakes/fill lakes to create construction plots. To worsen it, after committing the sin, please do not give it a misnomer – “Re-claiming land”.

5) Strong parton to arts and cultural activities - Bharatanatyam, Karnataka’s folk dances, mandolin, violin, Carnatic concerts, Shankar Mahadevan, Shreya Ghoshal, Shaan, Kailash Kher, many English rock bands, birth place of many renowned Hindustani classical singers, Karnataka has many credentials in the fields of arts, crafts and sports. In the five-year period, I have attended multiple concerts conducted by Times of India, Bengaluru and during Bengaluru Habba. I have seen people of all ages enjoy music in the open at Palace Grounds and such events/crowds remind me of my college days. Chennai has a very formal set up of Carnatic music festival every December, which may not cater to as big an audience. The Bengaluru Habba Crafts Fair held this year at Karnataka Chitra Kala Parishat, Kumara Krupa Road, Bangalore was a treat to the city’s residents. The aegis this city provides, to arts and crafts is immense and this is a strong reason why I love Bangalore. Not to leave cricket behind, Karnataka has for long, contributed brilliantly to the Indian Cricket team. I have been lucky to watch a T20 match between Deccan Chargers and Bangalore Royal Challengers of IPL First Edition at Chinnaswamy Stadium.
But what bothers me at large and of late is the exponential phase of construction activities in Bangalore with big, tall buildings covered by glass, aluminium composite panels cropping up everywhere, pushing agriculturists entirely out of scene. There are many railway stations in Bangalore - apart from Majestic, at Yeshwanthpur, Malleshwaram, Hebbal, Yelahanka, Banaswadi, Byapannahalli, Krishnarajapuram, Whitefield, Cantonement, Bangalore East and yet there is no EMU train service. The current metro activities run parallel, onlooking the KR Puram and Byapanahalli stations, yet it is unclear to me how organizations/committees cannot think of running EMU trains on it as an immediate and viable soultion rather than felling trees, cutting roads to half the size and spoiling the beauty of once majestic and wide MG Road, Jayanagar South End circle etc
And how meaningful are these plans to go underground near city market for Metro construction? Why add more to the already existing chaos? There is an immediate need of a bus terminus at City Market but government has not heeded to it at all.
And let us not close the KSRTC bus terminus for the sake of Metro. Well planned and laid out, big terminus like the Kempegowda bus station must not fall an easy prey to the ongoing Metro activities. True, I have resided in Bangalore for only 5 years and I see a whale of change, some definitely not for the good for all of us, inmates of this city from birth will certainly attach more value to their home for long. I look forward to 2010 with a small prayer - let us all preserve the beauty and serenity of this city. I definitely love Bangalore :)

Friday, December 11, 2009

War and Peace and Prize

This post titled “War and Peace and Prize” is no appendix/synopsis to the famous work – War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. After reading several articles in newspapers, Nat Geo and considerable browsing, I have been driven to add a third dimension to WAR and PEACE.

Today, we have four US presidents in the list of the Nobel Peace Prize winners, starting with Theodore Roosevelt (1906), Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1919), Jimmy Carter (2002) and Barack Obama (2009). I remember a one-line mention of President Thomas Woodrow Wilson, the founder of League of Nations while studying for a test on United Nations at school. Though the LoN was a failure, it served as a brainchild for the United Nations and brought some order post First World War. Jimmy Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for ending the Israel-Egypt conflict over Sinai Peninsula in the year 1979 through a peace agreement. Years later in 2002, he received the honors for brokering the peace agreement. May be the committee took time to circumspect. Though good number of articles tell me how influential a president Theodore Roosevelt was, it is not very clear why he received the Nobel Peace Prize. His career was dotted with the war on Cuba but he was known more for ending the Russo-Japanese war. May be the committee then granted him the Nobel Peace Prize for not hunting a bear when in Mississippi, an act that gave birth to “Teddy’s Bear – Theodore(Teddy) Roosevelt’s bears or teddy bear” in toy shops, first in USA and now world over.
An overpowering sense of astonishment still lingers in case of Barack Obama. Just close to finishing an year as US President, the African American President has created history of unprecedented scale. He has sent an additional troop of 30,000 US soldiers to Afghanistan on a war to curb Taliban, then was present at Oslo to receive the honors. He neatly completes the three dimensions – War and Peace and Prize and that he has managed it in the shortest time frame speaks of his potential, his skill with words and his tact to reign over the world. If Guzton Borglum were alive today, he would definitely have sculpted Obama’s face on Mt.Rushmore.

Right from Indonesia, where a statue of a 10 year old Obama with a butterfly in hand has been unveiled to inspire youngsters, to China where Wen Jiabo is yearning to get the green signal to boss over Asia and its affairs, to India where the PM’s highest personal achievement is an invitation to the black tie dinner hosted at White House, to Israel’s Benjamin Nitanyahu temporarily suspending the expansion of settlements in West Bank fearing a US crackdown, to Copenhagen where officials are accused of working more behind closed doors to allow USA circumvent awkward legal binding on emission cuts, to Oslo-Norwegian Nobel Committee for granting peace prize, the world largely, has fallen flat in salutation to the USA and to Barack Obama.

They not only accept the United States as the omnipotent power but have also acknowledged it openly, some very charismatically and some sheepishly. May be for the first time, an award has been provided even before the results were achieved.

I seriously pity the Nobel Prize winners in the science and medicine category who do not live long enough to receive the honor. They research for years with meticulous care to pave way for a better understanding of some deep mysteries in science and medicine. However, Barack Obama has clinched the honor effortlessly.
The honor, it seems, is not for the work done but an advance extended for work to happen, more precisely, for duties expected of the United States and from Obama who leads it. However, Obama was not moved by this cosseting act. He clearly said that a nation cannot be run, only on ideals preached by King and Gandhi, every nation has the right to defend itself. Though his words are pragmatic, the intentions and outcome are thoroughly myopic. This “every nation” is restricted to only USA. Every nation has the right to progress – but emission cuts are legally binding only on developing nations. And US as a nation, has the right to progress, that is why it has until now evaded the Kyoto protocol.

Obama has talked of leaving a beautiful earth for children and grandchildren of tomorrow. Where and how will that happen with US mining corporations minting money over gold and diamond mining activities? The vulnerable victims are poorer and ignorant nations of Africa and Asia who for a considerable and never seen before urban development sacrifice their natural habitats. They are caught in problems like destruction of rain forests, greater soil erosion, vulnerability to either droughts or flash floods and nasty civil wars.

USA has not even spared its neighbor, Canada. It imports billions of barrels of crude oil from the state of Alberta in Canada. The oil sands in the Athabasca basin are churned in heavy machines fuelled by natural gas, heat and steam run over under high temperature and pressure to separate bitumen from oil so that the final product is neatly transported. Tons and tons of natural gas (a non-renewable energy source) are burnt in these behemoth machines in Canada to generate barrels of crude oil (another non-renewable energy source) and tailings/end materials of the process are left carelessly at the river basin choking aquatic life and stifling migratory birds to death.

What made the world infer that United States is a responsible power, clairvoyant enough to preserve the world as is for future generations? Yes, I accept, USA is a power, a supreme power that can impose sanctions on Iran, toughen its stand on Afghanistan and Taliban, indefinitely carry on war in Iraq. Is it a responsible power to take the lead in cutting green house gas emissions, providing relief to hunger infested African nations, take onus and not trample upon other nations’ valuable resources for its benefits in the name of globalization?

If the Nobel Committee expected all good work to be done by USA with Obama leading from the front, I feel it is too wild and big an expectation. Many have believed and still believe that Obama will harness change, but to reward him even before he proves his mettle will only lead to dejection and dismay. When the world realizes that time has flown by, another presidential term has come to an end, yet nothing has changed, it will be too late.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rock On

The channel, MTV, has been long known for airing preposterous shows brimming with vulgarity. However, Kurkure Desi Beats – MTV Rock ON came as a refreshing change.
A music show where people grouped into bands perform original compositions, compositions blended with a flavor of desipann and predominantly, the typical vocal chord straining, head banging hard rock element.

Though I was not regular in watching the audition sessions, I happened to see the Kolkata auditions episode. I must accept, the place teems with musical talent. Sambit, a drummer and Raahi, a vocalist, caught my attention with their zeal and energy. They got selected and in fact, sailed till the end.

The show had Ram Sampath, a music director, Kailash Kher, a superb singer and Nikhil Chin-up-aa, MTV VJ as judges. I spent months of Aug-Oct 2009, waiting for Sat 7pm, watching this program, loving it for the fact that it did not focus on vocalists alone but gave importance to instrumentalists as well. I genuinely feel that instrumentalists are more gifted than vocalists, they understand the most subtle nuances of music which are easily forgotten or overlooked by vocalists. Ironically, it is also true that they get lesser recognition and credit.

This show on MTV turned out to be my favorite for 3 reasons –
1) I loved music
2) It did not carry the conventional ingredients of a MTV show – cat fights, drama in name of road adventure, verbal abuse, churlish quotient etc
3) It had adults as participants. Not young, schoolchildren who left behind their bags/books, spent all time in the studio recording/singing only to get dejected and utterly lost on the day of elimination. To make it more traumatic, the child’s parents sob, whine, sulk and fight, creating a picture of irreversible damage to the child’s career and life.

The participants from auditions were put through multiple rounds of elimination, usually attended by a guest, an external judge apart from the usual three. Their inputs were valuable but also surprised me at times; they excused many a mistake from some but showed the door to few who went wrong just once.

Out of the eliminated participants, I loved Parul, a vocalist. She rendered the remix version of the Hindi film song, Soni de Nakhre very beautifully. Mr.Mari, a saxophone player, though not versatile in tunes and style, his age (60+) and passion to play alongside people in 20s undoubtedly deserved accolades. Agnithra, a tabla player, Keshav, a guitarist and Jared, a guitarist (though not a vocalist, he rendered a superb version of “Genda Phool” in baritone voice) are other names I will remember.

Decisions marking exit for some came very late, as in case of Geetharthi, Abhinanda, Anish and Bikram, all are vocalists. They had the clear advantage over instrumentalists, after all a band requires some one to sing and take centre stage. This gave them the edge, even when they lacked potential, over instrumentalists for whom a single error cost heftily, the toughest competition reigning in the guitarist’s category.

The BEST survived and formed three bands.
Dhairya – comprised of Iman Sen, a vocalist from Kolkata, perfect playback singer material, great voice with immense depth, who put his heart and soul to every song he sang. His clarity, seamless transitions between notes, passionate and zero inhibition performances were a treat. I would love to see his name on the Bollywood playback charts some day.
Then there is Aviv, on guitar, highly talented leader of the band, Collins, the rapper, bringing hip-hop flavor to the song, a total enthu guy, Akashdeep, truly talented bass guitarist, Parth on flute (a very disciplined and down to earth performer, highly gifted musician) and Yadhu Nandan on drums adding life and vital beats to the song.
Iman and Parth, in my opinion, were always flawless and rocked every episode.

Khilaugh – This band is a precious gem, a star-studded collage. All members of this band are my favorites. Each member is a king and together, they ROCK on stage. They are very adorable, devoid of ego, and full of a unique sense of friendliness. They might not have bagged the first place in the competition but I am sure they will walk away with bigger and better laurels some day if they continued to perform together.

The leader is the “Raakshas Gaayak”, sobriquet provided by Kailash Kher to Raahi for his orotund voice. He always ensured that you banged your head, tapped your feet, clapped your hands and enjoyed his song as much as he did. He would tear his vocal chords apart with a never say die attitude. Sambit, on drums shared equal fervor.
Kaushik, Ashok and Pratyush on guitar, though relatively soft natured people, stole hearts with their fingers playing meticulously over the strings. They were the magicians of the band. Of all guitarists in the finale, Pratyush, Kaushik and Ashok were my hot favorites. They wore sweet smile on their faces when they crafted their parts in complete sync and perfect harmony with the others; there was never a clash between the three guitarists of the band. Then there is DJ Saab with an element of style, revolutionizing modern day music with his turntable. With whack, whacky turns on the turntable, he created sounds that provided a never heard before funky quotient. They were unbeatably the best in every sense. “Jugni”, a song performed by Raahi in one of the elimination rounds is a superb piece to watch.

Saadhak – The winner of the competition comprised of very talented musicians. With Nirdosh, the guitarist on the forefront, there was no looking back for this band from start. Nirdosh was way above his peers and no novice to music, his desipann and musical acumen conquered his tunes. Indigenous elements were mixed boldly by Naitik on percussion (the dhol). Tanmoy, on drums, left no stone unturned. Sachin, the violinist, a prodigy, ensured that the music delivered was always of A1 grade. Raj, the KILLER bass player let his hair loose and played with immense fervor, getting deep down to intrinsic notes of the song, leaving his stamp of perfection on each one of them. Willy, though not talented as other vocalists - Iman or Raahi, mingled well with the masters in his band.

The problem with this band was copious ego among its members – Nirdosh, Naitik and Sachin were too excessively talented to shed their differences and come together. Sachin, especially, as the sole violinist in the contest threw tantrums and worked to dominate the centre stage. The differences between them were so huge at times that they expressed dissent openly in recording studio before Ram.

For this flaw, I feel they should not have won the title in the grand finale. Music is the primary element in judgment, but being happy and natural, playing as a band also matters, when on stage in front of an audience. After all, when music is the primary element, discord between people who render it sounds absurd. Members of Saadhak never seemed to complement each other, rather they appeared juxtaposed with one another, bundled together to achieve a dream. However, taking their creations, “Bulle Shah” and “Billo Aunty” of two varied genres– the former being Sufi and the latter, a happy go lucky, naughty song, as instances will reveal why they grabbed the big pie.

To know more about these bands, to download their compositions, one can check -
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