Sunday, November 18, 2007

My friend in the night..

I cant stop dreaming, and I cant stop staring at the ceiling either. Something makes me smile constantly. It’s not anything in particular, its just.... everything.

I toss. I turn. I go to the loo countless times, even when I don’t really have to go. A song’s playing on my laptop. It’s played about 10 times already. It’ll play another ten perhaps. Something about the lyrics keeps me up. Something in them makes me want to dance. Something tells me I need to sleep, because the gods of work wont be pleased about my escapades in the night. They wont feel the understated joy of discovering a new song that takes over your entire being. You’ve traveled already, for hours with the song…. Imagined. Believed. Lived. And yet you know, despite the fact that your mind had managed to wander to the most beautiful places, your reality hasn’t changed. It won’t. And that’s part of the joy.

The hands on the clock have been moving tirelessly. Tick tock. Tick tock. The hours have been drifting past. At 11 you thought, you’d be asleep by 12.At mid night you were convinced, you wouldn’t be awake to see the clock arms go past one. Tick tock. You’re still awake. Still smiling. Still in the room. And yet, far- far away.

You’re not alone in the room though. Your glance meets someone else’s. You’ve been looking at each other for sometime now. Occasionally acknowledging each other’s presence. A mirror after all is hard to ignore. The person in the mirror is just as happy as you are. Just as elated. No one in the world, but the two of you understand this insane joy you feel. Over nothing really, then again…its not really quite the same when happiness comes with a reason. Because then you know you have a reason that’s making your heart race. A cause-effect relationship tells you this is not going to last. But joy, that has no reason…has no reason to end. Because nothing in particular started it to begin with. It just drifted in. And brought with it, a sleepless night. An endless smile. The flicker of eyelashes that hold in them a world of imagination. And that feeling, is hard to take away.

You enjoyed it at first, but now reason kicks in. You’re trying to figure what it is about your new discovery that makes the world seem spectacular. What is it about a tune and a few words strung together that make you feel irrational joy. Ecstasy without reason.

I try and write my feelings down. If something’s making me feel this good, I want to feel this joy everyday. Even if it has no reason. Even if I can’t trace where it all began, I can definitely make it stop from ending. And in that process, I destroy it. Hours of bliss end in an instant. My hunger to feel this rush, to preserve it, becomes the death of it. I stop writing, realizing I’m ending the most beautiful thing I’ve felt in days. And then I think to myself…. How happy I was, in the moments that were. And how trying to hold on to something only makes it go away further. Faster. I finally fall asleep.

I try the same song again the next night. It doesn’t quite have the same effect. I don’t see the arms of the clock working. I don’t meet my faithful companion in the mirror. And I have no way of knowing if he sat there, waiting for me the entire night. I was asleep after all.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Diwali blues

I can’t stop smiling. I continue to walk. Paper lanterns pass over my head. An old man smoking a beedi puts up a No smoking sign over the table of fire crackers he’s selling. A woman arranges mud diyas she’s hoping to sell for three bucks a piece. Five, she quotes….fully aware, that her customer will bring her down to three anyway. The man I buy five oranges from twice a week is busy arranging some crates. Its not orange day today. I wait for my change as he balances one kilogram of apples against his two 500 gram weights. The apples are heavier than the weights today. Some days they aren’t. I never complain. I won’t today.

It’s the same street I take to office everyday. It’s the street I pass to get to the main road on my way from the Lower parel station. Something about it, for the last two days has been very different. And I can’t help but smile.

This is as close as I will come, to celebrating Diwali. And I know it.

I remember as a child, being spoiled with more crackers than I could blow up in a night. I remember my dad, lighting a rocket, not following his own instructions about ALWAYS pointing the rocket skyward. And I remember him lighting one that didn’t spiral up…but zoomed in the direction of a woman wearing a silk saree (boy, did she have a death wish!) and going straight into her petticoat. I remember watching this otherwise unathletic woman jump to heights no one thought she was capable of! And I remember, my mum warning dad about spoiling me. I remember dad spoiling me …when mum wasn’t looking. And then I remember not celebrating this festival, any festival for a really long time. I still don’t.

This year is different though. It’s my first diwali all alone. It’s the first time the house is all empty. Dad’s sailing. If I light a diya, there will be celebration. If I don’t, it’s just another day. One of many I spend alone. Talking occasionally to dad on the phone. Conversations, that much to my dislike always linger around weather or not I’ve eaten. And much to my dismay, the chat eventually turns to weather or not our maid has been coming on time. If I don’t light that diya, its just another day….

I buy my apples, heavier than the two 500 gram weights. I carry my bag on my shoulder, heavier by a kilogram. I wonder if I should buy a few diyas. I smile, amazed at how colorful this street looks today. I smile, knowing I will carry no part of this color with me as I walk past it…..

I’m told I have a live link to do about dhanteras. I’m in the backseat now. The camera person is talking to the OB engineer about where he can park the OB van so we can do the live. I’m keen on the Lokhandwala market because I have plans to watch a movie at a theatre that’s right next door. It’s 5.45. The live is at 7. I would be in time had I left about an hour ago. I left at about 5.40….

We’re in Bandra. We’ve decided to stop the white Indica we’re in and wait for the Ob van. Assignment from Delhi has called twice to check if we will do this live. One of several on the channel about how people are shopping this dhanteras. I’d been told just moments ago what dhanteras meant. I remember vaguely, my mum and dad using the word …when I was younger. When we celebrated.

Its quicker for us to move to the Ob than it is for the Ob to move to us. The Indica maneuvers through traffic a lot faster than our Innova OB. We ask the Ob van to stop wherever they are..and get the dish up. It takes about five minutes for the OB van to get signal be connected. We reach. The point is right outside the jarimari mata’s temple in Bandra. Great I think. And we do the live from the temple. The usual quirks. Some ha-ha moments. A two-minute contribution to a 24 hour news channel. Minutes later, I’m in a train…and it comes back to me. It’s after years that I’ve been to a temple on a festival. It’s something we did as a family. I don’t do it when I’m alone. And I can’t blame my dad for not finding a temple in the middle of the ocean while he’s sailing.

I smile.

Not because I enjoy the scent of underarm hair from the man standing right next to me. But because in my own way…and without knowing…I celebrated.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Up until this point, I thought I had it covered. I had moved everything off the table. The computer, the cds, my endless line of hair gels, and random business cards I know I’ll never use in my life

Only one thing stood between making my room more spacious and making my dads already cramped room, more cramped….a big table, a small door!
The idea behind moving the computer table first occurred to me, when I realized I desperately needed more space in my room to do some morning jumping around in a futile attempt to stay in shape. The computer table (and the computer on it) was of no use to me because I prefer the laptop…and my father wasn’t at home to be able to oppose my brilliant plan.

Now, as I twisted, pushed, turned, pushed, lifted and pushed my large computer table…I realize that this was just NOT a match made in heaven.

My goal was to move this table out of my room. Actually my goal was to move this table into my dads room. No wait, my real goal was to have more space in my room… but then again….with every push, shove and a higher heart rate, I realized…its so important to loose focus in life…

Back to my, now strangely angled table and my reluctant door that would just not let me and my need of the hour through. When I took a moment, to breather and analyze the situation( and when I could no longer push) I realized what was getting jammed was a keyboard tray extension. “Great” I thought…. “Lemme just get the screw driver, unscrew the keyboard tray and I’ll be able to push this baby through”. I had the perfect plan and it was easy execute. I would realize only later…how wrong I had been.

So I crawled under the table, squeezed through whatever little place the table and the door offered me.. and I got out of my room…to find the screw driver.

Lemme take a moment, at this point, to describe my father’s room. Take a room. Shove a bed in it. Then, in the remaining space…get a carpenter to construct a wardrobe. In the four feet of space that remains, place five trunks that are of no value to you, but you refuse to give up. On top of the trunks (solid steel btw) have an unusually large make shift temple with a four feet idol of a hindu god. Now get seven other idols of that size…and leave the trunks (and the gods) in crowded misery. The bed, must be neatly made… the pillows stacked on the corner… and then you can dump about five feet of rubbish on it… to make sure not one inch of space is spared. You must remember at all times, a bed is not a place to sleep..but a 5x6 meter dumping ground…with a mattress that cushions all your junk!

Anyhow…so I rummaged through all of this. And what I assume was atleast 200 calories, and 20 mins later… I emerged out of my dads room with a screwdriver in my hand. Triumphant.

Here’s the thing. The problem with our mind is that, we tend to believe that the problem we’ve identified is THE ONLY problem. We like to believe that once we’ve all found our screwdrivers, life will be simple. We all believe that once we have that screwdriver in hand… the door and the table will magically part to welcome us into our own rooms. Always forgetting, that what has merely happened is that we’ve got so caught up in our next step to our final goal.. that we’ve forgotten what that goal was!

I realized at this point..I had no way of getting back in. While I had somehow managed to squeeze out of my room, getting in was going to be a lot harder. A stool, a lucky charm and some acrobatic moves later…I was now standing on top of my computer table….about three feet above the floor. And about half a feet of total space I could wedge myself into. The fact that the human spirit knows no boundaries, worked to my advantage here…. I got back into my room… and then said to myself.. “that’s it! Cake walk now”. Again, I’d realize minutes later.. how wrong I’d been!

To screw things up, well, that’s simple. I have 22 (wait, now 23) years of expertise in that area! If you want things to go horribly wrong, I’m just a phone call away. But to unscrew something, well, lets just say, this wasn’t what I majored in. I realized the keyboard tray was installed in such a way that you had to remove five other parts before you could get to where the keyboard screw was!

I can’t remember what happened next. I can’t remember at what point I gave up. I don’t even think I remember how I finally did manage to move the table from my room into my dads… what I do remember is that when it was all done… I said “Yes, I can finally work out in my room now. I have enough space!”

I’d have loved to lie in my bed and sleep after all that hard work. But my dad’s bed was out of question, well you know why! And my own, well that’s where I had put everything from the large table...and it was easily an hours work before I’d be able to move all of it away.

I slept on the couch in the living room that afternoon.

The next morning, as I dumped all the stuff from the bed into my father’s room… to add to his collection of certified junk (on his bed of course!), I said…yes…I finally have the space to workout!

I come back, at this point, to the point I was trying to make about focusing on the larger goal. The problem, as I learnt from my large table, small door experience is not that we don’t have goals. The problem doesn’t even lie in the fact that we get caught up in smaller tasks to achieve that big goal…. The problem, I think, is that we often begin to believe that getting on the path to GET THERE is the goal! And THAT is the problem.

If all was well, with my new found space.. I’d be working out in my room everyday. What I’d forgotten though, was that while I had the intention of getting into shape… I had absolutely no intention of working towards it. And that’s when I realized, while I identified a goal….I just identified, the wrong one!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mid air blues

I’m not a petrified flyer, but a seat in a plane isn’t the most comfortable place in the world. Sure, they do all they can to comfort you. Like the very first speech about what to do in the event of a crash. Sure, reassuring, that one!

I’ve been told for as long as I can remember that I began flying quite early. Dad’s naval background and constant trips back home meant great revenue for the then supreme Indian airlines. I miss the charm of those planes though… not knowing weather the plane would break into two halves or four mid air. You could only guess. And if a mid air tragedy didn’t kill you, the airhostesses might just! Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with 800 year old women working as cabin crew…but do they really have to yell at you for everything! It reminded me awfully of school. And I wasn’t’ particularly fond of school either.

As I fly now, I look around. Part nervously, part out of curiosity, part, to just make sure no one’s looking while I say a silent prayer to my trusted lord Ganesha reminding him constantly of our signed and sealed deal which compels him to guard me unfailingly at all times. And in the midst of this slight muttering, and holding a small plastic Ganesha I carry in my wallet..I always sense the entire airplane just staring at me. Is it me imagining or do the hostesses pause in the midst of their service, old men put their paper aside, lift their glasses to look in my direction. And the guy in the loo, his stream freezing midway….well, you get the picture.

Although, in doing my own looking around to spot possible witnesses to my mid air prayer, I’d also spot some people doing similar things. Most people, I’ve noticed, put their magazine down, close their eyes…. Pause when the flight takes off. I’d like to believe they’re all praying as well. Either that…or they’re just using the extra noise from the engine as the perfect cover up for some much needed flagellation. The noise of their good deed for the day may die out under the sound of the roaring engine… unfortunately, the nose always manages to detect what the ears may have been deprived of. And in that moment, your hand, in sudden movement, moves from your heart to your nostrils. And god, becomes an after thought!

I enjoy travel. I’m more comfortable, knowing that other people are just as uncertain about being thousands of feet above the ground. Hoping, like me, that the guys in the cockpit know their job well. REALLY WELL! Hoping, the wing doesn’t fall off…or some other instrumental failure that’ll be called “unknown causes” if and when the news does get out. I’m looking, into my book…but that’s just a cover up for everything else my mind is engaged in. and I’m keeping an eye out for prospective hijackers. Now, is it just me…or do I always end up sitting next to some guy who really looks like he was trained in armed combat, flying planes into buildings, and doing most of these neck slicing kinda tricks! Aah well


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wanna be an Entertainment Journalist?!

Get off your ass.. send a CV to every news channel there is in this country and start brushing up on your language skills. Its important you know how to ask a celeb the questions they don’t want to answer!

ok, hate to be vain here but reality check. You're not on radio …you're not in print. In television, looks matter! Keep in mind that some one has to be subjected to actually watching you on screen. Sure, you don’t need to look like a pageant winner (if you do, great! Gimme a call!)…but being presentable is a good thing. You’ll realise a lot of stars warm up to you a lot more if you don’t smell like something that should’ve been thrown out with the trash! And the whole era of nerdy entertainment journalists has died.. I think the viewer expects some gloss. Give ‘em that!

If you’re doing hindi..there’s no excuse for asking “aap ko kaisa lag raha hai!”. The in joke is that…you could be interviewing someone for a film release, a rape victim, someone who cracked their spine while having tantric sex..and the reporter would ask “aap ko kaisa lag raha hai!”. I'm sure there's a better question to ask!

This is personal opinion really. Others might tell you a journalism degree helps but my take on this is simple.. ACJ is not going to teach you how NOT to be distracted by Rakhi Sawant's breasts while she’s giving you an interview! There are something things you only learn on the job…and this is one of those! Plus think about could study for 3 years..then you’ll join as an intern..when honestly in the media no one gives a damn about your degree… might as well impress them with your work rather than your marksheet!

The couch exists. I’m waiting to be offered something! ;)Communication skills matter. Being camera friendly helps. And its important you find someway of making yourself stand out. Because if you’re like all of them… they’re not going to remember you. That said, this job is really about having fun.. if you're not going to enjoy entertainment...might as well cover stocks!

Interning with a News Channel?!

Frankly, if you hate the place you're interning at, don’t be too hard on yourself. You are afterall at the very bottom of the food chain. There is a huge upside to being an intern though….enjoy it!

This is perhaps the only phase in your career you CAN'T be held accountable for what you do. If you do it well, you’ll walk away with all the praise. If you screw up…someone else will have to hear “How could you leave it to that intern. I mean he/she is JUST AN INTERN”. And it’ll end there! So go ahead..make mistakes..learn from them..and get some people screwed in the bargain ;)

No one likes getting anyone coffee, and if you think people make interns do that- you’re wrong. No one actually does that! They might want to…but they don’t. A large part of your job will be to log tapes, a task I personally hate. (and never really do!). The good part about logging other people’s tapes though, is that you know exactly what NOT to do! Its hard being objective when you’re going through your own footage…its easy to hate something that’s someone else’s. Just remember… if you’re thinkin “Jeez! This guy is so cheezy!” , chances are you might not want to do anything even remotely similar.

Network. You’re there for one reason build contacts. Make them fall in love with you. Be eager to help. Spend a few extra hours at work. I hate to brag (actually, that’s a lie..i was born to brag!), but my career actually began with interning at Bombay Times and I ended up getting quite a few eyeballs. Youth brings tremendous energy. So every other old fart who’s trying to shrug away work…volunteer to do it..and you’ll realise you’ll end up doing pretty well for yourself.

Lastly, if and when you do go with someone on assignment.. analyse the person you’re going with. Some people enjoy answering questions..some don’t. The one thing that’s universal that NO ONE likes to baby sit. As long as you’re good company…you’ll be fine.

The worst mistake an intern can to think they’re lesser mortals. While that might be true..(!) most people in entertainment are a lot less uptight than standard news fellas..
(Disclaimer: I said MOST. Author cannot be held accountable for your bad karma that blesses you with one of the four jerks in entertainment!).

Enjoy the internship. The industry needs young people who can have fun. No better place to see the world. Get paid..and go home and say..”I’m so tired. Too much partying tonight!”