Salman Khan Madness

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Once in a while we head to Big Bazaar to do our monthly shopping. This time it was madness. I like to park my car as close the the Big Bazaar exit gate as possible so that its easier to load everything into the car. This weekend every single parking space was full to my surprise.
Entering the mall we saw why. The picture above is of fans trying to catch a glimpse of Salman Khan. Salman had come to promote his film production – Hero.
We also excitedly tried to catch a glimpse of the star. People we hanging out of very vantage point possible and anything move able be it the dusbin, chairs or ladders had been commandeered by fans.

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Street Art

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Pardon me writing here after a long time. But as most of you know photography is my passion and I only write to share something which is close to me or an experience which has touched me.

This weekend I went to Shahpur Jat to experience a walk led by three young architects who blog,study,walk and are interested in not just buildings themselves but the interaction between the people and buildings. The walk is a part of the Delhi Street Festival which aims at making more and more people understand what street art is.

I have always associated Graffiti as being something ugly, something which destroys the visual appeal of a city. But in a sprawling semi-urban village like Shahpurjat I began to understand how art could make a difference and how the local villagers had now something to be proud about. Walking through the narrow lanes of Shahpurjat, towards the back side of the more popular design lanes, gave me a feeling of a place still untouched by time. Although it is an area inhabited mostly by the Jat community, I could also catch a few phrases of Bengali, which as our guides explained was also one of the communities which had made this urban area their home. The facades of most of the buildings here are gloomy with walls almost glued against one another and narrow buildings sticking their necks up, like a young tree trying to break free of the canopy to get some sunlight.

Looking at the art installations, you get a sense of the different backgrounds that the artist come from and what inspired them. Harshvardhan’s work inkbrushnme at the corner building of two forking roads depicting the Sun God is inspired by Amar Chitra Katha. It depicts the seven colours of the spectrum juxtapose with a map of Delhi . Yantr’s bio mechanics graffiti and style could be related to the fact that his father was a mechanic. I loved Alias’s works, brilliantly realistic yet hidden.

The walk was very visually appealing and the idea of a kit with information about ShahpurJat and a walking map to mention a few of inserts was a great idea. It also had a stencil cut out which all the group members used to make their own little wall art. There walk had identified close to 20 major art installations. The village is now dotted with several other smaller piece, commissioned by the local on their walls once they warmed up to the idea of street art. We ended the walk at potbelly , the only place in town that I’m aware of which serves Bihari food. The pakoras were to die for. I would definitely recommend you to stop there ( mind you, you will have to climb four flights of stairs)

Although the guided walks are over you can still head over to Shahpur Jat to see the art works. From here the festival which is on till the end of the month shifts to Huas Khaz and Khirki Village. My only qualm is that the Hero piece ( as explained an artwork which becomes a sort of a landmark ) is a not a dog but a cat 😉

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Harshvardhan

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PCO

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Alias

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Anpu ( Hero Art )

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Change of Guard at the President’s House

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There are few times when the corridors of power open for the commoner. The Change of Guard is one such ceremony open for all which happens every Saturday inside the President House. It is held in the forecourt of the vast official grounds.

I reach short of breath from running up the Raisina Hill. I can vaguely hear some announcements happening inside the palace gates. Although I was there at Raisina Hill in time, we are only allowed to walk up to the gates sharp at eight. It takes about 5 minutes to reach to the top of the hill followed by the customary security screening. I am pleasantly surprised that it is not a tedious process. There are no stringent restrictions about what you can carry inside. I see a group of foreigners with hand bags, mobiles and even photographers entering with tripods. Fortunately I didn’t miss much and it was only after everybody has settled into their seats that the Army Brass Band starts to play.

The ceremony starts with sleek, muscled and well-groomed horses flanking both side of the gravel path performing in perfect unison to orders belt out by a baritone voice. The riders – President’s Bodyguard (PBG) regiment are all taller than 6ft and are in their ceremonial regalia. The crisp white uniform and the coat of arms shimmer strikingly in the early morning sunshine. The brass band played beautiful and is not averse to a popular reworking of the traditional. The band’s playlist includes patriotic Bollywood classics. Expect all the pomp that is customarily attached to such spectacles: flashing swords, lances, ear-piercing roll-calls, bugles and much stamping on the ground.

The half an hour spectacle ends with a request to the viewing audience to stand up for the National Anthem. Time seemed to have passed too quickly. Like me, the rest of the audiences hangs around for some time clicking pictures before finally starting to disperse.

It’s a blessing that the memories I have of my childhood (which now seems a long, long time ago) are happy ones. I’m the only son of two loving parents. My Dad is an IAS officer now retired and my mom is a housewife. Having chosen Orissa (now rechristened Odisa) as his state carder, we have had the privilege (my mom would strongly disagree to that, given the hardships she had to face) of staying in the most remote and pristine places in Orissa. I can vouch that Orissa has the most beautiful forest tracks in the country; only that the state has not been able to promote itself because of its poor infrastructure.

My mom tells me stories of living in places where the only drinking water was carried to our house every morning by an old man, or that every time there was a power cut it took more than a week to restore the lines; electricity poles uprooted due to fallen trees. Or the day when Dad left early from office but arrived late….the reason? A bear was sitting in the middle of the road, intoxicated (the Mahua flower being the main culprit) and refusing to budge. The driver had a slight stammer which became more pronounced as he tried to speak “Sirrr aakta bhaluuk….k rastaee bochee aacheee… ” (Sir, a bear is sitting on the road)

Everything about me in my childhood till the age of four was ‘difficult’ to put it mildly. I wouldn’t sleep, wouldn’t eat, and wouldn’t stop crying and generally driving my parents crazy. It was only after five that I settled down and my parents heaved a sigh of relief. But unfortunately by then I had tortured my mother enough and I never had a brother or sister to keep company.

My first legible conversations was in Tamil, thanks to our Tamil caretakers with whom I spend a lot of time with. The next language was Oriya. I spoke Bengali, my mother tongue quite late. Once I was over this first hiccup of which language to speak in, I was hard to stop as if I wanted to make up for my first days of monosyllabic mumbles. This turned out to the advantage to my parents as when we had guests who over-stayed their welcome my parents would unleash me on them. I would enter the room, climb on their lap and start to speak to them in Oriya. Within a few minutes they would say their goodbyes and bid a hasty retreat.

I was a ‘silent worker’. I went about my deeds silently (only when the work aka misdeed was done was I unmasked). I distinctly remember that it was monsoon, which in Bhubaneswar is almost for six months – all the clothes had finally dried after two to three days of airing and mom had gone for her afternoon siesta.  I was feeling particularly helpful and when my mom woke up from her nap found me with all the dried clothes dipped in buckets of water for washing. I was really surprised at the look on my mom’s face; she didn’t seem pleased.

As I have already told you I was difficult. I had asthma and one of the reasons of not enjoying my food was that my nasal passage was always blocked. I had to breathe and eat through my mouth. Whenever my grandfather came over to visit us he encouraged me to have tea (black tea). That was the end of milk for me. After that when I was given bottled milk I would smartly point at the tea cups in everyone else’s hand. My less than normal eating habits did not stop there. I had a strong penchant for dried ‘pigeon shit’ which I would discover from any nook and corner and quickly put into my mouth lest anyone wanted a share from my tasty snack. My granny also had a role to play. She is an avid ‘paan’ eater. Whenever she had a paan I could get a small nibble from it. So it was only natural that I would miss it when my grandparents went back to Kolkata. The shrubs and small trees in are garden were well pruned till about a height where my hands would reach – my ready source of ‘paan’ leaves. And when I was caught munching I said “Mou pano kyochi” (I’m having paan).

In Orissa we lived houses built on ten to eleven acres of land with enough rooms to fit the entire Indian cricket team. Then my Dad got posted to Delhi – From big gardens to narrow balconies. From narrow unpaved roads to broad roads of Lutyen’s Delhi. School day of Delhi was another honeymoon period for me. Shivering in my grey half-pants while waiting for the school bus in the Delhi winters to bunking classes and loitering in Khan Market. It was in Delhi that I had the first experience of flats that too multi-storied. So many flats, so many friends to play with. From morning till dusk I would be out. Every evening my mother would shout from the stairs in the vague hope that I would hear and come home.

By this time in life studies were supposed to be important. How Sad! I was expected to come back home by a particular time, have my bath and devote a few hours to my studies. I think I had grasped the concept of returning home on time but not the second part of the deal-studying. Hence this instance – I come back early, tip-toed into the TV room, where my parents were engrossed watching Derrick (I think) and hide behind my mom’s chair. I patted myself on the back, feeling smug that it was nearly one hour and my mom had still not discovered that I was in the room, when she commented to my dad “ Look at the time, Choto is still not back “ . I popped out and said “I’m here”.  You guessed it, no applaud for my stealth.

Being fond of sweets is something  in the ‘genes’ of a Bong. Even if you are not at the moment, don’t fret it just means that it’s not been triggered yet.  Everyone in my family loves chocolates. From Gulyian to Milka we have tasted all. But our all time favourite has always been Nutella. It was a standing instuction with all my dad’s friends going abroad to bring Nutella. I remember one time we had an uncle who was extra sweet and got back twelve jars. By now my parents were well aware of my greediness. All the jars got coded; S – Soumya , GB – Dad & G – Mom. So that made four each. I was done & dusted with my share within a week. Then started the sequence of  begging &  blackmailing with puppy eyes. Dad gave in easily. Giving his share to me. But mom would not relent. So began my nightly vigil; getting up at night scooping out a spoonful and leveling the rest of the chocolate. Each time mom opened her jar she did notice something was not right but couldn’t put her finger on it.

Phew!!! if you have managed to read this far maybe you liked this post…. Waiting to hear your fond memories too.

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Do you believe in love at first sight? I Do… My first love – The Tiger. Or should I say – “The Tigers” and “Wilderness”. My journey started in Ranthambore and continued to Bandhavgarh, Corbett, Bharatpur, Kanha, Nagarhole, Kaziranga, Bandipur, Chambal, Sariska, Dudhwa, Pench, Mudumalai, Nameri and its still on. What happened en-route? Well quite a few things. I had worked in the hotel industry for a pretty long time and while traveling with clients through beautiful jungles I fell in love with them. My camera held me in good stead; capturing some breathtaking moment with Tigers, which even pros would die for. As time passed my entrepreneurial urge grew stronger and stronger. Finally I felt my job and after scouting for the perfect place found my dream land in Kanha. There I built my first wildlife lodge-Chitvan, Kanha.

Throughout my life I’ve been fascinated by Tigers. Slowly as I started spending more & more time around these magnificent beasts, I started understanding them better and with that understanding I came to know myself better as well. If you think about it, you can easily identify the traits of a Tiger with that of a CEO of a company. Let me run you through my observation and you will see my point. Let’s take the most important aspect which allows the Tiger do dominate his territory Fitness. It’s a quality shared by any CEO. To run a company he has to be physically & mentally fit to handle the reigns of the company and take informed decisions. Another characteristic is ‘Adaptability’. Tiger is one predator that’s perfectly adapted to various terrains be it the swamps, grasslands, snow or water. Similarly the CEO of a company needs to adapt to the ever-changing international scenario where the competitive advantage of any company can disappear overnight. ‘Eating Right’ is another trait which is essential for both to keep them in perfect fighting condition. The Tiger generally covers more that 10-15 miles of his territory every day. A CEO also needs to keep ‘Patrolling’ to judge the market sentiments and make sure the company isn’t losing ground. Hunting, Ambush, Concentration; all discreetly are the traits of any predator on the top of his game. A Tigers success rate is only 10 % but it always gives its cent percent. This is what any shareholders of a company would expect from the CEO; that he gives his heart and soul in all that he does.

And remember it’s always lonely at the top. You will have few friends but you will have to persevere. Hope I could share with you my complete awe and respect for these majestic creatures. In the case of the Tiger I firmly believe “Looks can Kill”. Will like to sum it up by a famous thought, “John Seidensticker, of Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park in Washington DC, come to mind: “The tiger lives in a world of sunlight and shadow; always secretive, never devious; always a killer, never a murderer; solitary, never alone; for it is an irreplaceable link in the process and the wholeness of life…”

Note : The above is a write up of a great presentation given by my dear friend Sharad Vats.

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At the subconscious level something must have happened in school which made by brain stop me going back there. In school I was the guy with average IQ, sandwiched between friends to whom studies was a walk in the park. Over all I would say school was a very enjoyable phase in my life, which makes me wonder why is it that I’ve not kept in touch with more of my school friends and teachers or attended any of the alumni meets, albeit being in Delhi all these years.

So it was a pleasant surprise when out of the blue I get an invitation on Facebook to attend the wedding of two of my school mates. I was thrilled that at least someone did remember me even after such a long sabbatical. I congratulated my friends and promised I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I would be meeting my school friends after nearly ten years.

I made plans for the 15th Dec’11 with the only school friend that I am in touch with. Unfortunately she had to cancel and I made the journey alone. I arrived on time (I hoped) since in my excitement I hadn’t even seen whether the invitation was for the marriage or the reception, let alone the time. After giving the valet my car to park, I asked where the marriage is and was pointed vaguely towards the front. I entered the wedding hall at the end of a corridor which had an arch decorated with flowers at the entrance. I was pleasantly surprised to see all the women dressed in traditional Bengali attire. Surprised, as my friends are now settled in the states and had come home only for the marriage. I hadn’t expected it to be a traditional Bengali affair. But my happiness did not last long as I soon realized I didn’t recognize any of the guests present in the hall. I made a hasty retreat to the archway to have a look around to see if I could see any signage to confirm if I was at the right place. Then I saw it, “Arindam Weds Anuradha”…. and heaved a sigh of relief. But I didn’t feel like going back in. Suddenly I heard the sound of band baaja and hoped it was my friend Arindham. It was. Arindham and a lot of barati’s dancing away to glory. I don’t know whether the groom had a horse to start with, but at that moment he had both his feet firmly on the ground, dancing along with everyone. After a lot of photo opportunities and hip swaying the crowd finally covered the last few meters and reached the entry to the hall. Anuradha too arrived at the spot in her car and the couple did a dance together in front of both the families who were laughing, shouting, and dancing at the same time. To my relief in that merry crowd I finally saw some familiar faces. I must tell you I was a wee bit disappointed at the boys. I think if I had seen them even after another 10 years they wouldn’t have changed. It was if it was only yesterday that I had last seen them. The girls on the other hand had become ladies. It took me a while sometimes to recognize their faces. The first half and hour was exciting as the ex Patalian group grew larger and larger, and sometimes a little embarrassing as sometimes there was a long pause trying to match faces with names. After a while once the first hiccups were out-of-the-way, everyone fell deep into conversation, reminiscing about the past and catching up on the present. I have a feeling that Arindam & Anuradha too wanted to join us. Haha…ha

Once the ceremonies were done and the bride & groom were having the customary dinner with close family, Anuradha couldn’t stop herself and joined the party happening on the dance floor. The last song played by the DJ was the song which is a rage now ‘Kolaveri’. In the end the blessed couple too didn’t want the party to end and fervently insisted that all of us come again for the reception. Let the party continue….

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