Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Its been very interesting for me to write about my experiences during the summer of 2003 mostly because I have never attempted writing like this before. I also realised that a lot of things that I never thought about then, occurred to me when I decided to write about them; almost like an afterthought. For those of you who have not read them yet, here they are, listed in the order of creation.

1. Colonel Rai
2. Ahmedabad
3. Dr. Ramesh

Monday, June 27, 2005

Dr. Ramesh

This will be the last of my Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar series of posts.

Nase rog harai sab peera
Japat nirantar Hanumant beera

Jo yah padhe Hanuman Chalisa
Hoye siddhi sakhi Gaureesa

All diseases, pain and suffering disappear on reciting regularly Shri Hanuman's holy name.

All those who recite Hanuman Chalisa (The forty Chaupais) regularly are sure to be benedicted. Such is the evidence of no less a witness as Bhagwan Sankar.

Argggghhhhhhh...I would roll over and check the time by my watch...6:15 am.Damn I would curse and roll over and try and cover my ears with the pillow but then suddenly a loud jarring bell would blast my senses and yank me out of sleep. I would look up in despair and I would find Dr. Ramesh performing his early morning rites in an earnest fervor. Dressed in a dirty green lungi and a vest, Dr. Ramesh would then carry on his Hanuman Chalisa to invoke the blessings of the revered bachelor-God. I was at the hostel in Gandhinagar and Dr. Ramesh was the only other person staying at the hostel other than the warden, his wife, Rajesh the gardener and me. Suddenly he stopped his chanting and I thanked the lord to have given me another hour's sleep.

Dr. Ramesh was a practicing surgeon in Patna, Bihar. He was fat, sloppy, sluggish and yet there was an earthiness about him that is quintessential of a Bihari. I met him and we quickly became friends of sorts(not that we had a choice as we were the only people staying there) He used to tell me about his family back in Patna. He had a son who was about 8, a big house with two cows which he would milk every day(for some reason he stressed on that piece of information), elderly parents and a thriving clinic.He used to earn about Rs. 40,000 a month but after deducting the money that had to be given to the local goons for protection he had precious little left. It was strange listening to him about things that I had only seen in movies-about paying local gangs, money as "protection" , about his life in Patna and about the callousness that had pervaded every fabric of Bihar because of which a murdered man on the street evoked not more than a passing curiosity in the passers-by.

Dr. Ramesh had decided to give up constantly living under threat and had decided to find work as a doctor in a government hospital in Gujarat. He would leave the hostel by 9 and visit the various hospitals around the city and then trudge back tired and dejected.He would come back and tell me as to how he was ignored and a fresher was chosen only because he was a Gujarati. The worry in his eyes was evident as to when he would find a job and be in a position to send some money back home. It was when I saw him during those times that I wondered as to how much I had taken for granted. Then he would attack the food with such gusto that I would be left marveling at his gastric abilities. He would eat about 8 chappathis, a plateful of rice, two helpings of dal and whatever vegetable that was made and a bowl of curd. This was interspersed with salad and papad. Then he would give out a few loud belches and go out for a walk in the hostel grounds and release air at random intervals.

I thought about what I would have done if we were to switch roles. He had problems and yet instead of giving into the demands of the goons he decided to build a new life elsewhere. However there will be others who would argue that he was running away and not fighting back. But sometimes fighting back is just not an option. He had his wife, his kids to look after and yet I know that deep down he would have yearned to stay back and fight but it was just not possible.
For Dr. Ramesh, life would be a constant struggle, from Patna to Gandhinagar, from blatant terrorism to subtle discrimination...

Thursday, June 23, 2005


During my trip to Ahmedabad which I wrote about in the last post, I initially stayed with a distant uncle of mine and for ease of reference we will call him KB .If my memory serves me right, KB's mother is my mother's father's sister. The plan was for me to stay with them for a day or two and then move into the fated hostel. They own a huge house in one of the better localities of Ahmedabad. As I entered the house I was met with a stunned silence and not a single person was to be found. I went inside and met KB's mother and father and after the customary feet touching and their remarking how much older I looked and arguing about whether I took after my mum or dad, I was allowed to go upstairs to my room. I took a refreshing shower and came down for dinner and half-way through my meal, I heard two cars pull into the driveway.

As the door opened and I looked up, I saw a mass of people(it was not really a mass but at that moment it seemed like one) enter. Here I was in a house with about sixteen people out of which I knew two people and yet everybody seemed to know who I was. There was a lot of discussion on my family, ancestrage, past incidents in my family which I had not witnessed and lots of "Do you know" kinda questions which I really did not know the answer to. When they found out that I hardly knew any of them, they made me sit with a marriage album of their son and then started my crash course in "Know Your Family". At the end of it, it seemed like this part of my family just never seemed to end and so I excused myself and with a swimming head I stumbled to bed.

I moved into the hostel the next day and used to come to KB Uncle's house on the weekends and could not help notice how different our families were inspite of being related. Here was an extreme patriarchical system where the men went to work, came back, expected hot food on their plates and then left the plates to be cleared by someone. On the same thread, were the women who spent close to 8-10 hours in the kitchen with the favorite topic of discussion being-"What do we cook for the next meal?" But they all seemed happy, the men, the women and the children. The entire family went to the temple every day(not together!!) and I was invited to go with them once. I have never felt comfortable in a temple and so I politely declined for which I was asked tauntingly if I had ever seen God. My first reaction was to say that if he/she resides in the temple then no,I haven't, but I maintained a studied silence.

It was on my third weekend that I started feeling comfortable with the people. I used to spend time in the kitchen with my aunts and sisters-in-law listening to the daily chatter however trivial and seeing them contented and happy. I used to play badminton with the kids and watch them fool around and yet be blissfully unaware of all this. It was an interesting experience where I realised that so many things that would be dissatisfying to me, gave them their greatest happiness. I had a good time and returned to Chennai a wee bit wiser and 5 kilograms heavier(they were mutually exclusive events)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Colonel Rai

Clad in his spotless white pajama kurta, Colonel Rai walked along the edge of the garden tending to the flowers, giving instructions to Ramesh, the gardener to clear a patch of weeds and all this while smoking his customary cigarette. That along with many other images make up the collage of my memories of Col. Rai.

It was the year 2003 when I went to Ahmedabad for an engineering internship at Viral Controls Private Ltd. In my search for accommodation in Gandhinagar, I came across a National Youth Hostel. It was an imposing structure and I walked in with a trace of trepidation. I met the warden's wife as the warden was not in and she gave me all the instructions about rent and meals.I returned the next day with my luggage and met the warden, Col. Rai. He must have been 65-68, neatly trimmed white mustache, glasses, a skin that had faced the vagaries of nature and yet seemed ready to take on more and a lean frame.He asked me a lot of questions about what I did and why I was there and also gave me all the instructions regarding the stay in the hostel.It was off-season then and so the hostel was empty.I was the lone occupant along with the Colonel, his wife and Ramesh.

I hired a cycle to take care of my transport issues and started my internship the next day. As the internship progressed I realised that I was beginning to learn more from my stay at the hostel than on the factory work floor.Every evening I would return to the hostel and take a nap for an hour.I would wake up and go take a stroll in the vast gardens that surrounded the hostel and I would see the Colonel performing the same chores I recounted in the begining.He would then ask me to come over and we would walk around talking about a lot of things. As a matter of fact, he did most of the talking.

He would talk about his days in the army, the people he met, the relationships he built.I was fascinated to hear him recounting his experiences of the 1971 Indo-Pak war and his memories of the days of emergency. He would talk about the lawlessness in his state of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. While narrating some of these stories it felt like he wished that these states were also run like the Army; with discipline,dignity and honour.He was a BHU graduate who had decided to join the Short Service Commission during the '71 war. After the war, he took up a permanent commission and then spent 20 years in the army. He believed that it was the army that made one into perfect model citizens and that the army had so much to offer to the youth.

Our walks turned into a melting pot of discussions; be it civilian life or the impotence of our ministers or the spread of drugs in educational institutions.He had been the warden of a famous Indian education institute and had on many occasions caught students with dope on them.As I approached the end of my internship, I realised that the world had so much to offer and how much more there was for me to experience.We bid each other farewell and I am sure that today if I went back I would find the Colonel clad in his spotless white pajama kurta, walking along the edge of the garden tending to the flowers,giving instructions to Ramesh, the gardener to clear a patch of weeds and all this while smoking his customary cigarette and shaking his head at the way the world was run.

Monday, June 20, 2005

My jaunt

After an eventful weekend, I am back at my desk preparing for the next certification exam I am supposed to take at work.I am now a MCAD(Microsoft Certified Application Developer) and also finished the first exam on my way to becoming an OCA(Oracle Certified Associate).

It was a fun weekend during which I made a trip to Pondicherry for 2 days with some good friends. We drove to Pondicherry on 17th June and reached there by 8pm.We checked into a guest house and were quite pleasantly surprised to see the place.The best part about the place was that it was quiet and peaceful.We did the customary Auroville and Matrimandir and then sat through the nights talking and dancing.It was a most pleasant getaway and the best part about the trip was that for two days I did not think about the next week and things to do at work and the exams to prepare for,no newspapers in the morning and no emails;I holidayed in perfect style.

Current mood :Satisfied

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Batman Began!!!

Caught up with Batman Begins on Thursday and in my opinion-I liked it.There were a number of places where the movie faltered but I believe that as a whole it was good.The movie starts of with Bruce Wayne experiencing another of his bat-infested nightmares.He finds himself in a cell in some god-forsaken country. The movie then goes onto recount how his father and mother died. It is interesting in the aspect that the batman movies that I have seen till today have never captured and illustrated the Wayne parents as much as this one did. I knew from what I have read and seen that the Wayne family was very well-known and very famous for their philanthropy.However it was interesting to see how they dealt with Sr. Wayne and his interactions with Bruce.It gave a brief but interesting insight into the father's heart.

It was also one of the darkest Batman movies I have seen in a long time.What we don't realise is that all the other super heroes had other motivating factors like Superman had a child-like delight when he discovered his powers while Spiderman was driven by the guilt of his uncle's death.Batman is the only super hero to have been driven by fear and used his fear and converted it into his most potent weapon.As Bruce Wayne sets about building an alternate identity, I did wonder as to how this will be dealt with, but credit has to be given to the director where he has again dwelt for a considerable bit on the research Bruce does and at the end of the movie there is no spanking Bat cave but just a make-shift foundation on which the real Bat cave will be built in the sequel.

The fight sequences could have been better orchestrated, the girl friend plays hardly any role but Michael Caine was the quintessential English butler-wise and cynical;just the way I like them.Morgan Freeman was wasted as an actor and the villain was average.

It was certainly interesting to see the internal conflicts within Bruce Wayne and his intensity showed well.At some level Batman is the superhero who is closest to being human and easiest to relate to because he is one super hero who made his weakness his strength.Lesson learnt.

Went for the movie with another blogger, Manoj.Read his review here.


I have never thought about the concept of playing for "fun" as a lot of people like to say.Here is the situation-"10 friends decide to meet up and spend some time together.So they decide to go bowling."When asked as to why they want to go bowling, they nonchalantly reply that they want to go bowling to have fun. As the game of bowling progresses some of them do well while some others do not. Now some of them who do not do well, might be more competitive than some of the others who do not do well and therefore some of them who do not do well and are more competitive do not feel happy about not doing well(phew!!!Now that was a difficult sentence to come up with)Immediately they get tagged as being whiners and bad losers.Now this is a concept that is beyond me.

This is because the concept of going bowling to have fun is alright but when I am at it, I bowl to win. Why would anyone want to bowl to get a score of 0?Now that is so beyond logic that we won't even consider it.So as the main idea is to get a score as high as possible,why would I be happy if the ball lands up in the gutter(drain) on either side of the bowling alley.Why am I expected to shrug my shoulders and smile and act as if nothing happened.Why am I expected to continue smiling and being all gay and happy when I am thinking about what went wrong and how I should correct it the next time on.

End result -Whiner or Bad Loser

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Production done!!

Atlast the June production of evam Indrajit is finished. Its been interesting to do evam Indrajit after the kind of plays we have done before with Neil Simon comedies of The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park,Python Hysteria, Art, Love letters and Death. There have been some important discoveries about how we are perceived today by a Chennai audience and the expectations with which they come to watch us. These are also times of change at evam with some people from the old guard leaving and new faces being inducted. For me the last 10 months at evam have been a most interesting experience not just in the kind of work I have done but also with the people I have met and the things I have learnt.

Some things that I have learnt at evam-

1. There is no such problem which does not have a solution.If there is a problem we will find a solution and its been a revelation to see some of the things people come up with however small and simple.

2. No job is small enough to be looked down upon.If something needs to be done it needs to be done.No two ways about it.

3. Its ok to let your hair down once in a while and party hard into the night even if you wake up on a grass lawn with a throbbing headache and wonder where on heaven's name are you.

4. Never take oneself too seriously(it is not worth it).

5. Always take your job seriously;sometimes its difficult to distinguish between the two but it can be done.

6. At evam, we are all entertainers, the audience has given us 2 hours of theirs and its our duty to tell them a good story.

In the end we are story tellers and that is what we do(that sounds like a perfect case of over-simplification)

Friday, June 10, 2005

What the Hindu said...

The Hindu came out with its review of evam Indrajit on friday evening and here are excerpts from their review

`Evam Indrajit' is a projection of the attitudes, fears and frustrations of the educated urban middle class of the 1960s. The sombre existentialism draws attention to the crisis of the individual. It is pessimistic and holds out little hope for those who value ideas, dreams and poetry.

The play asks questions to which there are no answers. Is the individual redundant? Is everyone only a copy of a copy? Should we conform? What is our reality? What is our truth? Badal Sircar puts a playwright in conversation with his audience. Together we look at the uneventful life of Amal, Vimal and Kamal. Indrajit alone puts up a feeble fight before he too conforms.

Presented by Evam, the play went on the boards at Sivagami Pethachi Auditorium. The group freed the script to the extent possible from the trappings of the 1960s by rewriting the lines in a more familiar lingo. That was a nice touch. The production, in Evam style was meticulously executed with an eye for detail and had two brilliant performances from Sunil as the writer and Asim Sharma as Indrajit.

Iswar, Vidyuth and Vivek as Amal, Vimal and Kamal also turned in good performances in spite of the script, which didn't give them much scope to make contact with the audience. The semi circular set, designed by Michael Muthu closed in the acting area.

The issues the play raised were non-issues to some of the youth. They were unhappy that there was no storyline and two hours was too long a time to discuss unfounded frustration.
However everyone agreed (some grudgingly) that Indrajit was once again a well-done play from Evam.

Above all they have helped assess the extent to which Chennai's youth have evolved in three decades. The pressure points have shifted. '

For a full read of the writeup, click here

Read more individual reviews of evam Indrajit here,
Priya & Balaji

Update: I have not been able to find the Indian Express review online and so have not been able to provide that link.

Monday, June 06, 2005

evam in the news

The Hindu ran an interesting piece on evam on Monday with insights into how the theatre scene is being redefined in Chennai by evam. It talks about how evam does not just offer "theatre" but whole entertainment with a professional touch.

Here are some excerpts from the articles-

Says Sunil from evam-"Today, we are attracting a lot of new people who haven't been to plays before. Our target group is 18-35 and the proposition we have for them is not theatre but entertainment. We drew 1,500 people for the five shows of our first production. On our last play, we did ten shows and reached 5,000 people. The numbers are increasing. Chennai has at least 15,000 to 20,000 people who want live English entertainment".

"Next month, we will have three things on our hands. `Evam Indrajit' will go to Prithvi, Mumbai and Rangashankara, Bangalore. `Barefoot in the Park' is going to Hyderabad, Pune and Colombo. In the same month, we will be rehearsing for Biloxi Blues, which will premiere at the Madras Theatre Festival, which we are managing," says the actor.

"We are not competing with any other theatre group. I sell myself not as a event management company but as a medium. I have 5000 people and we reach them six times a year. We do activities in Landmark, we have an email database of our audience. So it's easy to convince a sponsor to be associated with us."

The next four-six months are going to be very exciting for all of us at evam.To read the entire article, click here.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

First set of shows-evam Indrajit

Well the first showing of evam Indrajit just finished last weekend and I am back at my desk, pecking away on my keyboard trying to capture the happenings of the last two days. We started with a complete tech rehearsal which included a complete run-through of the play along with the sound and lights on Friday. Specific sequences were repeated to get timings right. There was screaming, sweat and fatigue by the end of Friday. Next morning, the tech team sat in on a meeting to review all the cues while the front end team worked tirelessly in their marketing efforts.After another tech on Saturday afternoon, the actors and tech team took a break while the crew continued in its efforts to ensure that the audience will have nothing to complain about. The show started-I don't intend to write a review of the performance because I believe it will be done best by someone not attached to the production. However, one thing that took us by surprise was the laughs the play elicited from the audience. During our readings of the play with Bhagyam, we tried to delve deep into the play, its seriousness, the undertone of the play but we were taken aback by the laughs that the play generated.

I believe it was a lesson learnt-the distance between a script and a performance is what we make out of it.