Monday, October 17, 2011

here we are

The poll rhetoric is over. the debate was on. the vision of the wannabe mayors is to create e-mail ids and providing helplines. in essence, they are keen on serving the public. but there is little to suggest what the city really wants to move forward to take its rightful place along the great cities of the world. it is obvious that the Chennai Corporation, even if it is Greater Chennai, will not be able to accomplish everything the city needs on its own. the state must have the vision to take the city truly a place to live and cherish. the geography of the city has it in that it has the ability to expand and assimilate to be the true cornerstone of rapid urbanisation that has swept the state in the last two decades.

This is a city full of promise yet has fallen short on expectations repeatedly. There is no place to begin describing the life of a city than garbage that touches the life of every dwelling. Despite a Supreme Court directive to implement solid waste management some five years ago, the city, like most other cities in the nation, is still clueless even to the idea. Majority of the city is still to have two dust bins for seggregating waste - the first step towards effective waste disposal system. the whole process is mired in bureacratic and legal tangles. then the dump yards. even if city's two shame pits at Perungudi and Kodungaiyur have been brimming over and above for years, the corporation is yet to even think of decentralising garbage disposal. identification of one garbage disposal site, without affecting the locals in anyway, along every road that goes out of the city and carrying the city's muck to create wealth (which is possible on a smaller scale) is not a distant possibility.

Plastic is another toxin plaguing us. Ten years ago, the same ruling government was about to pass an order banning the plastics in the city which was scrapped an evening before. This time around also, the intent is there and one has to wait for the level of enforcement. The city itself, on its own, could curb the use of plastics by taking that old-world cloth bag or wire-baskets with them but unfortunately, the city's elite prefer paying for plastic bags in malls and shops. And there are cement manufacturers waiting for the corporation to transport the plastic to their factories to burn them without a trace of toxins reaching the atmosphere.

The state's top bureacrat, before he became that, once told me that unless the city's waterways are cleaned up, the city will never be able to make it as a great city. The government he works for is not talking about the previous government's efforts to clean up and restore the Cooum river, matchless in its shame. Of course, it has been the pet project right from the first time the five time chief minister M. Karunanidhi assumed office first time. The vision has always been there. May be, there was intent too. It still is a pipe-dream. On the other hand, Adyar offers opportunities for the city some scope but here the city lacks vision. Remember the crores spent on National River Conservation project? The city's Buckingham canal looks beyond redemption but the canal along the OMR has a lure that is yet to be tapped. Urbanisation on that IT stretch could also contaminate the canal clean as of now. Are we aware?

There has been debate on metro rail and mono rail but no one is saying openly that metro is a necessity to take people in suburbs like Ambattur, Avadi and Sriperumbudur as well as vast stretches of North Madras where the public mostly use public transport. The circular corridor in the first phase of metro is unlikely to make much of a difference within the city whereas monorail, by its very design, could crisscross and decongest the heart of the city. Another circular road corridor, with BRTS as an inherent part, is still in its foetus. No one knows how long or how many governments it would take to deliver. Sample this, MRTS stations stand as the ugly testimony of the vision of the southern railways and failure of the state to effectively integrate urban transport system for which a bill was passed a few years ago.

While the world's city's breathe green, our own city has gone earth. Rapid urbanisation and rise of apartments and multistories, in essence, jungles of concrete and glass, could turn out to be our nemesis in the long run. A far sighted move brought Cauvery water to the city some years ago, but the thirst is still there and growing. Again rain water harvesting, at the micro-level, has proved to be effective in charging the ground water table. The triumph, though, will be in painting the city green, again, and as fast as possible.

A thousand stories are waiting to be written about the inadequate infrastructure in suburbs to be integrated into the city limits. Mogappair is the classic example of how a locality thrives on its own in a big city despite no help from the government, literally, from the government. It is time the chief minister drove through this Anna Nagar neighbourhood, where the state's many top bureacrats have houses.

Yes, housing is an issue concering everyone. It is time they made the right to shelter a fundamental right. The IT sector, and with it, the rise of a modern, growing India, meant a majority of the middle class could only dream of owning a house and another majority ending up paying most of their salary to the banks for owning the house. The less said about lower middle class and poor. Hear this from a woman who lives in a rented house by the Buckingham Canal behind the Secretariat. "Every year, the owner increases the rent by a thousand. Now, I am paying four thousand. All my earnings are spent on rent." Hers is the voice of millions. Previous governments have more or less focussed more on allotting its housing board flats and plots to coterie than try and genuinly address the housing of the majority. Private housing? Never mind, it is under the control of market forces.

There are a few places where the free market has no role _ public offices where corruption rules. The rulers, alternatively ousted, tend to think a lot into the reasons for the defeat. Corruption at the basic level - the hospital, ration shop, offices of RTO, tahsildar and the like - is a major cause for anti-incumbency wave to spread fast. The anger of a common man left to pay everywhere he / she goes, that is the failure of basic governance, is still a cause for concern.

Sample the quality of Chennai city schools in a State which is considered to be the IT industry's HR capital. Why has the government failed to make these schools sought after? Is anyone thinking of neighbourhood schools or the RTE provision to be inclusive and admit 25 per cent of poor in every school?

Pollution is an issue. When was the last time any of us went and checked at the emission centres which are next to non-existent. What is omnipresent is inflation? Well, that is something to be tackled by the Centre and the State, forget the City, has no role in it. And there are a whole lot of other issues like saving Pallikaranai marsh or Nanmangalam forests or a flyover in Vadapalani junction or closing down a few factories in Manali or building houses for fishermen or proper rehabilitation of displaced slum dwellers or shifting of coal handling to Ennore port so on and on.

The rhetoric never stops. The debate rages on. The city has to vote. And it has.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The crossroads

It is twilight. I stand there at the crossroads. The bridge to the right will take you to the city. The road to the left takes you to the labour lines and the railway colony. I live the street straight opposite. It has a mosque, church, temple, a copper pod lined garden and a childrens park. Its the heaven of the middle class.

I am all alone. Inhaling my daily dose of sanity, I try to figure out my life. I am truly at the crossroads. I am not sure what I have done all these years and I have no clue as to what I will be doing the rest of my life. I have no clue as to whos, whys and hows of me.

I am here. Thats all about it. Surprisingly, my job looks secured till my retirement for the first time in my life. Its quite unsettling you know! To do the same job all your life to retire and die. I have never had permanency of mind. Its always been fleeting. I must step beyond journalism.

The lonely attraction at the crossroads is the banyan tree. It looks like the tree is about to truly step into middle age in a day. Like me. The striking feature of this banyan is its branches. It looks like the tree has only branches as its trunk. I need to branch out.

I can clearly see the shades of green. The tender greens towards the road, parroty greens in its breast and the forest foliage on top. There were also yellowish green leaves lit by the sodium, the city's neo-light.

The roots are visible from a distant. Partly paved and partly peed. There are a dozen framed pictures of gods and goddess hanging on to the tree. The city is truly secular. Mary's portrait is easily visible. And as Alla is invisible, they had hung copper plated quotes from Quran. There are even bangles tied to the bottom. This tree is a healer. Am I? I'm a soother of souls.

A few days back, a tv show of a water falls near the soul town showed a `smoking saint'. The devotees to the temple by the falls present him all kinds of fags. The saint never speaks. He only smokes. And sometimes eats. What a life! When I told to my father sitting by my side that some day I would also be a saint like him, my father looked bewildered. Fathers will never know sons.

I walk around the banyan. There are two rain trees to its left and right. The youthful and the baby. Like my wife and daughter. The rains in my life. They wash all my impurities, cleanse me of my sins and breath my life pure.

Oddly, there stands a metal box looking like a post box from the time of world wars. There is this tri-wheel full of colourful pots. Then the puncture shop. The post box sure should have brought warmth and greetings to thousands and the pots must have quenched the thirst of thousands and the puncture shop (and its owner presently sprawling on the platform after a deepavali binge) must have helped the bikers to carry on a tiring journey. All useful to people.

I just wonder what about people like me? Have I ever been useful to others? I don't know. Definitely not to my wife. Or was to my mom. Compared to the service of those lifeless things, me (read we), the one with a superior knowledge and a clear conscience, have to admit my lesser being. What am i doing here then?

I went around. There was trash and muck behind. That nobody knows at first sight. The front is all show. Filth lies beneath in heaps. No one has to tell me this. I know it very well. What else is there?

At the back-corner where there are two mutton stalls half-a-dozen dead goatskins are hanging from hooks of crooked men and tens of hens hemmed in cages cry aloud, a young banyan tree is fresh and flowering. Despite the smell of the omni-present death (at the hands of the butchers who have different times), the tenderness from the banyan tree pervades the air.

I circle around as the smell of biriyani wafts through the air. Hyderabad Biriyani! A crowd is waiting to take home in parcels bones, legs, livers, hearts and brains. As I am not a meat lover, my thoughts munch `cheeni kum!'

Time has no meaning. Twenty years will roll by. Just like that. I may not open a restaurant. May be, I will own a small bookstore in soul town. Ilayaraja will be there. With his lasting melodies. And I will wait. For Nina. Not El.


Monday, November 01, 2010


That sensuous smile sat naturally on her face, an ocean of compassion. His melancholic soul erupted with joy for he was slowly freeing it from his clutches of memories caged in pages. There was no pride in it though. For, the writer in him merely wrote verses. Without any affection or self admiration. For he had that heart of humility. Strung to the soul.

That same heart of humility hung around her neck like a pearl necklace. And her charismatic soul was strung together like colorful beads from ancient beaches. 



"A kiss can make a man immortal. I may die, decay. A kiss will etch me in eternity. I will dwell in the dust of this book shop till they shut it down. Then, I will hang on to the badam tree. If they knock it down, I will take a walk and sleep my nights on the sands of the beach, chasing my dreams of you, amidst a trillion stars. Forever. 


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

அடங்கா மனம்...

வறுமையில் உழலும், இருக்கும் இடம் தெரியாத இன்னொரு இலக்கியவாதி தோழர் தேனி செ. சு. வாசி எழுதிய கவிதைகளில் சில.

"அடங்கா மனம்" தொகுப்பிலிருந்து...


உண்மை தெரியுமா?

தினம் தினம் காலை
யோகா பயிற்சி
மனம் விரும்புதே
அமைதி புரட்சி
அயல் அடிமை வாழ்வில்
மலர்ந்த மகிழ்ச்சி
ஆடிப் பாடினோம்
ஆனந்த மகிழ்ச்சி
கொடிய கையூட்டு
கொடி போல் படர்ந்து
கோடானு கோடி மக்களை
கொடுமை படுத்துதே
சட்டமியற்றி சாதனை
படைத்த மனிதா
பிரிந்த சாதி மத
சாக்கடையில் தவழ்வது
கல்வி பல பயின்றாலும்
ஒழுக்க அற நெறியில்
மிருக சாண மனம் வீசுதே
பொய் மனிதா பொய் மனிதா
உண்மை உனக்கு தெரியுமா
பேசிப் பார்...
பிரபஞ்சம் தலைவணங்கும்


கானல் நிலம்

காணி நிலத்தில்
சேற்றில் உழுதுளப்பி
வீரியம் நிறைந்த
விதை விதைத்து
பயிராக பாடுபட்டு
வெயிலில் வெந்து
எனக்கும் அவனுக்கும்
இடைத்தரகன் - நீ
எள்ளளளவு போதுமென்று
நெல்அளவை தேடுகின்றாய்
மடை கட்டி
மருகா வெட்டி
பகல் இரவெல்லாம்
நீர் பாய்ச்சி
இது தானா விலை?



விடுமுறை நாட்களும்
நாம்... காதல்
சொந்த பந்தங்கள்
பகை மறந்து
ஒன்று சேர்ந்து
வாழ்ந்து இருப்பது



உழைப்பே மூலதனமென
மாய்மாலம் பேசி
இலவசமாகப் பெற்ற
உழைப்பில் உயர்ந்த
முதலாளியை பார்த்து
அவர் உயர்வுக்கு
நான் தான் காரணம்


தேச துரோகிகள்

வேட்பாளர்கள் வீதி வீதியாக
கையோசை எழுப்பும்
கூட்டங்களுடன் - வாக்கு
சேகரிக்கும் அன்றே
வெற்றியின் யுக்திகளை
வழிவகை செய்கிறார்கள்
விலை நிர்ணயிக்க முடியாத
சொத்துக்களை, குடும்ப
அட்டை அடகும் வைக்கும்
வழக்கத்தில் உள்ளவர்கள்
மக்களின் பிரதிநிதிகளாக
வெற்றியடைய முயற்சிப்போரிடம்
மறைமுக கையூட்டு
கரன்சிகளை பெற்று
தங்கள் வாழ்விட சொத்துக்களை;
அதிகபட்சம் ஐந்தாண்டுகளுக்கு
அன்றாட தின கூலி தொகைக்காக
அன்பளிப்பும் பெற்று
வாக்களித்த மக்கள்;
அதுசரியில்லை இதுசரியில்லைஎன
குறை கூறுகிறார்கள்.
தேசிய சட்டத்தின்
முதல் குற்றவாளிகள்

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Memory Box

I am sure, we all have our lives. We tend to forget what we have done over the years. There sure is some sort of a record of your life. I am not a good record keeper. My wife sure is. Last night, she was putting the papers back into the greenish-grey suitcase. The only suitcase in the house.

The memory box. Full of paper and pictures. Of my half-life.

Rummaging through the bits and pieces, I was able to piece together my past. Not splendid but simple. Most of us lead simple lives. Some of the events of the past make you smile within. I learnt that I used to be a poet once.

I found quite a few more stuff. A certificate from college proudly called me the captain of the winning team in inter-department cricket tournament. That was the only time, I captained a team. We beat the English department that had 9 players representing the college team with three of them playing for the university. It was a victory as great as India's 1983 worldcup victory. A few other certificates told me that I used to be an athlete who played hockey, football, tennis, badminton and a few more games.

All my offer letters were there. I never thought I will ever earn a five digit salary in my life. The first few jobs gave me less than 2k per month. May be, I was destined to be a journalist. I'm not sure. Then there was this picture of my first editor sitting stately in his usual white attire. On March 26, 1998, he gave me the job with a salary of 3k per month. It was too much for someone who was walking to the office and back home smoking beedis. He gave me the break. He gave me the faith.

Then there was a letter by my first publisher written in foolscape paper. After reading a story of mine on snail mail, she actually wrote to me in plain paper after ages. All my short stories published by her was there, except the snail mail story. If not for her, I may not have discovered my writing skills. ``I like the way you write your stories in simple, short sentences,'' she wrote.

Another photograph of two lanky girls hugging each other with a small note that said ``We will miss you like hell'' made me remember the days when i shifted out of the big city to the textile town. Another picture showed me with two of my close friends by the side of vintage cars in front of the first sports club of Madras where Express Avenue stands now. The young, fresh faces did have an idealistic look.

Then there were the travel photographs. The shola forests, grass lands, water falls, tribals, wild elephants, tahrs, langurs, breathtaking landscapes, conquered peaks, fellow trekkers. Those rare unions with the lonely planet inspire me to report on environment and forests. For, we have very little left with us.

Moments of personal fulfilment were aplenty. My marriage invitation with a neolithic painting of a family inside a hut in Lakhajor in the Vindhyas, walks of my daughters through a tree-full garden, her first paintings and my wife's letters to me before she became my wife. Sadly, my first and only letter to my wife was missing. It was one of the finest love letters ever written. She has the letter secret. As I forget my past, always, as a habit, you have to ask her.

Me and my memory box. Get yours, don't forget.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

parivarthan - be the change

We all know that change is the only constant in life. And we take it for granted that change will happen and we do not have to worry about it. I learnt about a small group of women who sincerely believe in contributing to change, albeit in a small way. The group has named itself `Parivarthan'. Aptly so.

All these women, working online to teach the world, wanted to contribute to the real world. So they discussed during luncheon meets and coffee breaks the ways they can change someone's lives.

Well, these committed class first organised an exhibition cum sale of things produced by mentally challenged people from the banyan at office complex. The response from the kind-hearted was quite heart-whelming. The banyan thanked profusely.

I am not sure where the spark came from. We may not be able to discriminate between the hearts of women as to which one radiating love better. It could be the girl with a social bent of mind, volunteering herself to those in need, especially in dire need of the bloody blood, which we have so much but still reluctant to donate, every now and then.

Then they wanted to give free meal to the inmates of an orphanage. And I went, along with one of those real beauty, to the home. They were all children. Very special children. Looking into the vacant, introspecting, smiling, wandering nowhere, but still communicating.

One little boy showed me the teddy bear in his t-shirt, the other was wondering why this ugly one was sitting in the middle of the verandah, then came she. Anu. She fell all over me. She wasn't interested in me. She touched my sunglasses. She saw herself in the glass. `kannadi,' she said.

`yes. do you want one? i will get you one. don't worry'.

`moonu venum (want three)'

`She has two friends. They are real close' said the ayah.

`ok. adutha thadava varapo moonu kannadi vangittu varen (will bring three sunglasses next visit)'

as i know myself, am not sure when i am gonna honour my commitment.

what is sure is that these wonder kids will have more free lunches.

now, you know what parivarthan is all about.

its about 11 working women. plus 2 boys.

its not about free lunches.

its not just the heart.

i have a good one.

its commitment.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

lush, lust, up close.

Eye. Speak.

In slow motion, she walks alone in a crowded street. How can you miss her? I fell in love with Mathilda in Leon. Ms Portman. In Closer, she walks with crispy red hair towards journalist Dan. Jude Law. Eyes locked. Love at first sight. Screech. Bump. Down. On the road. ``Where am I, stranger?'' A bleeding knee. Green chairs. Hospital. First Flirt.

On the double decker. ``I write obituaries,'' Law says. ``I am a stripper,'' the waif says. Suddenly, the couple walk into a memorial garden. Of people who died saving others. ``My name is Alice. Alice Ayers.''

A year later, Dan writes the story of stripper who sleeps with him. Hers is an unconditional love. For publicity of the book, he walks into Anna's (Ms Roberts) studio. She read the book for the portrait waking up till 4 am. Asks him to title it `Aquarium'. Love. At first sight. The pretty woman she is, Julia's shutter captures up close their kiss. First kiss.

Anna is in an aquarium. Larry, a doctor, asks her for a night of orgy. ``You promised me in cyber chat.'' ``Me? That must be Dan. Faking me on net.'' By the river. Leica clicks again. ``Not me.'' ``Today's is my birthday.'' He walks a few steps, buys her a blue-balloon fish. Love. First Sight. Natalie cries. Leica. Tears.

Fuck. First Night. Every Night.

Exhibition of strangers. Natalie's teary eye in a huge black and white frame. ``Portraits look beautiful. They are all sad creatures.'' Larry gets to know the stripper. Natalie leaves in a cab. Dan can't wait anymore. Argues with Anna. Fuck. Larry senses it.

A year later. Dan's confession. Alice disappears. Anna's confession. Larry is lost. ``How long? ``Opening (of exhibition).'' ``Why did you marry me?'' ``I'm sorry.'' ``Did you come?'' ``Yes'' How many times?'' ``Twice.'' ``Is he a better fucker?'' ``Gentler.'' ``Does he tastes better?'' ``Sweeter.'' ``Thanks so much for your honesty.''

Concert. Dan and Anna. Hugs and kisses. Rewind. Coffee shop. White Tables. ``Sign.'' ``Come to my clinic. I want to fuck you for one last time. I will not disturb you again.'' Fuck. ``Sign.'' ``Don't go. He's a loser.'' ``Sign.'' Larry.

Dinner. ``Did you sleep with him.'' ``He will not disturb us again.'' ``I can feel him all over you.'' Rain. Larry's clinic. Knock. Knock. ``You can go in.'' ``You should leave her.'' Silence. ``I liked your book.'' ``Thanks. I'm obituary editor.'' ``Alice lives here.'' Scribble. Address. Door opens. ``Dan, I fucked Alice. A whole night.''

A hotel room. Smooch, smooch. ``What did I say when you picked me up?'' ``Stranger.'' ``With whom did you go to the memorial garden?'' ``My father.'' ``What was the color of the chairs in the hospital?'' ``Hmph.'' ``Green.'' ``I kissed you on the forehead.'' ``Give me your passport?'' ``I never allow anyone to see my picture in the passport.''

``Did you sleep with him?'' Silence. Walks away. Lift. Comes back. ``Did you sleep with him?'' ``It is no longer there. My love.'' ``Did you sleep?'' ``Yes. One night.'' ``Why?'' ``I liked the way he talked. Leave me.''

Larry and Anna in bed. Top angle. Anna. Lights off. Dim. Blue light. Anna's heart is bleeding. Dan, she cries. Solitude. Dan walks into the memorial garden. Stops for a moment. Name board. Alice Ayers. Saved three children....

Airport. Looking at the red headed woman in passport, the customs official stares at Alice. ``Welcome home Ms Jensen.'' A crowded street. She walks with that rare gait. Of a waif.

I am not sure how I fell in love with Patrick Marber. Apparently, the world fell for the play a decade ago. Only I din't know. I must read the play. A crisp screen play, chiseled dialogues, angles tight and up close, light radiant and glowing, emotions pure and raw. Taut.

The story of two love-locked couples. You doubt casting of Clive Owen as Larry. Actually, you don't realise he carries the film with his honesty. Consumed by passion for love of the two women, Law portrays subtly the self-doubt plaguing a loser. Julia looks lovely but is an understatement. Natalie, the waif, walks through the film like a stormy breeze. Lush.

Fish. Marber. Mike. Fuck.

A modern classic.

Stories From The Soul Town

There lies a magical land. Surrounded by the green ghats to the west, gurgling great rivers on the east, the valley with the very blue sky. A temple town of the tamils. Sitting on the dancing rock on the highland overlooking the valley, the writer procreates the lives of the people of this lesser known south west. Full of strange yet simple souls.