Monday, February 20, 2006

24 hours in Goa

A day visit to any city goes without realizing when it started and got over. This did not happen with Goa. 24 hours in Goa with new locations let me decipher new facets of Goa that I had not experienced earlier.

This was not my first visit to Goa but one I made after 3 years. This gave me chance to realize the change in these years. One thing that struck, Goa does not subscribe to an apt phrase ‘some things never change’. Goa has changed and for the better. Roads seemed immaculate, with white shoulder lines clearly marked. Dabolim airport has been spruced up but still looks woefully inadequate to handle tourist inflow. The outside gate of the airport is about the same size as that of porch of any hotel. Familiar cacophony of cars can stupefy most foreigners who have flocked to Goa seeing pictures of beaches. When I arrived, humidity was overpowering and so was the heat. Chaos was everywhere and amidst all that , this goan guy was holding soft drink and wet towel for his european clients who had arrived by chartered plane.

My first and only official stop was at Verne, a place close to Madgaon. It has sprawling industrial estate with big names as Kodak, Siemens. I stayed at Majorda beach resort- whose advertisements – I had seen for many years in magazines. The place is nice but old. Most hotel properties never spend any money in modernizing the fittings. So even though, fittings are functional they are worn out. Rooms are big, resort has lot of greenery around it, and b’fast is served in poolside garden. I reached the place at 2.00 am and left by 9.00 am next day. I only had a chance to look at hotel property when I went out for b’fast. I wish I had avoided ‘welcome drink’, it looked exotic but turned out to be excessive sugary that it took bitterness of beer to take out traces along the digestive tract.

My best time started when we decided to go for ‘baga’ beach for dinner. Baga appears to be an extension of Calangute beach. Paddling our legs through an avenue between tall palms, nestled with shops selling handicrafts, Kashmiri shawls, watching hoards of white foreigners .When we arrived at the Baga beach, it was past 10.00 pm. Beach appeared neither as serene as Colva nor as turbulent as Kalangute. That day, sand shone under starry night giving an impression of clean beach. All along the beach, restaurants had laid out the tables with candle light to savor seafood overlooking foamed crest waves of Arabian sea with a backdrop pulsating crushing of waves. Music was blaring and crowd was still thin. Some restaurants were more crowded than others. One such restaurant ‘Tito’ seemed favourite spot. All along the coast of baga, vagator, anjum and kalangute, fireworks at intermittent interval was on display – it seems this was a ‘pooled’ effort by restaurants to put their map on skyline of Goa. The quality of fireworks surprised me. When we left at 1.30 am, nighttime revelers were still having a ball at most of the watering holes; places were still packed up with western travelers with free flowing beer and feni. This place looked like limmasol in Cyprus.

Goa at this unearthly hour displayed flamboyance freedom. A freedom from fear of being beseeched while walking barefoot on the sands at late night hours, freedom to wear skimpy clothes and not being confronted by community moral police force. Freedom to travel without risk of being mugged. Goa’s acceptance of carefree style of living on beaches combined with somber religious, cultural ethos in temples, churches makes it a city of tolerance. The laid-back lifestyle, the afternoon siesta, the friendly simplicity of chatter loving Goans makes it a unique place in India.

Being in the middle east, beaches and sand no long interest me yet I yearn for Goa monsoon, its wild rains make even huge coconut trees swing to its mercy, small rivulets filling up with sullying with red soil to form giants streams only to get submerged with gusto in Zuari and Mandovi rivers. Watching the fury of lashing rains from the sloping rooftop mud houses, filling the nostrils with aromatic waft of fried prawns… Goa is exotic in rains!!!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

would india pak cricket be the same ?

“Look at what he is doing!”
mom screamed at the sight of her small kid and beseeched her husband to intervene.
Dad rushed out of his seat to his kid
“drop it, that’s not ours…. ... throw it .. throw it”

Small kid who was engrossed all by himself now became adamant with the fear of relinquishing his possession that he had managed to secure. His son’s defiance was now embarrassing Sardar dad. After all, his patriotic credibility was at stake. Being Sardar, fiercely loyalty came naturally to him. Saradar was exasperated and started snatching the annoying possession from his son’s hand. Kid started showing his tantrums by clinging to what he was holding. When Sardar realized that people all around him were having a hearty laugh. He was relieved and let his small son continue with his prized possession.

The prized possession was a Pakistani flag that his son managed to retrieve where India Pakistan match was progressing.

This incident happened at India Pakistan match played in Muscat in 1992. Those were the days when India Pakistan match would bring intensity mixed with a degree of hostility. Despite being friendly match, fans from both sides were vociferous and made sure they huddled together with compatriots. Only neutral places like Sharjah, Toronto provided an opportunity to display frenzied emotions from ardent fans from both sides. How the situation has changed in just few years.

Third one day at Lahore had large contingent of India fans. Some of them were spectacularly and comically dressed from Mysore Turban to Mahabharata costumes. Everyone had India flag - be it in form of Sikh turban, tattoo on face. 4,000 Indian fans out of capacity of 25,000 made it nearly 20% crowd. Ramiz rightly termed it as Mini India. It was unthinkable few years ago that Indian flags would be fluttering in cricket stadium in Pakistan. When Sachin got out on 95, Pathan laborer next to me at Food court in Dubai was rejoiced but commented to his friend “I wish he had got out after his century.”

Today, India Pakistan match still bring best of cricketing abilities but frenzy emotions are dwindling. Adulation of quality performance on the field has a fair degree of bipartisan approach by fans from both sides.
However, without that degree of hostility, would India Pakistan cricket match be the same as was in 90’s?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Rang de basanti - an excellent cinematic package

After Mangal Pandey, I became cautious of watching any movie that is hyped either through publicity campaigns or through staged controversies. When Rang de Basanti was released, I was bit skeptical to watch this movie in a theater until I did not notice widespread condemnation of this movie in media. I abstained from reading reviews either but the comments heard from Dubai FM DJ tempted me to take a chance with this movie. I did so y’day evening and was not disappointed. Not being disappointed would connote a negative compliment. I enjoyed this movie and amazed in a manner story is nurtured and presented.

Often I tend to judge a movie based on pre conceived expectations that set in my mindset. These often come from the reputation of producer, director, and main actors. In this movie, all I was vaguely aware that it is a movie with Amir Khan at center stage with shades of political jingoism. When this movie began, I was wondering if this was an attempt to combine ‘Dil Chahta Hain’ in color and ‘Shahid Bhagat Singh’ in ‘brown and white’ and movie would eventually veer in a similar manner as did movie ‘Lakshya’.

It dispelled all those conjectures. Instead, movie as it set the tempo it turned into a racy, vibrant montage with carefully delineated characters shot in a colourful manner. In movies of similar genre, most directors would have tempted to incorporate incidents of Jallianwala bagh massacre and emergence of martyrs as a backdrop of this movie or use it as a theme to lift the jingoistic spirit of today’s youth. In this movie, the essence of the young generation’s response to belligerent exploitation of rulers is adroitly juxtaposed in the context of current political and social turmoil. Kamal Hasan did use a similar approach in using Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination and Hindu- Muslim animosity in Hey Ram but his attempt despite being creative got confused with convoluted plots and subplots. Rang de basanti succeeded where Hey Ram failed as it scrupulously avoided falling into temptation of story narration spanning many generations and locale. The temporal duration of the story is not more than few months – a time takes to prepare documentary on any historical incident yet the story does not become stagnant. Most frames of the movie have at any time at least 4-5 characters yet screen does not get crowded with multiple characters. The credit goes to a compact script that delineates every character to its perfection. Amir Khan is just another protagonist and not heroic figure. Director has made sure that he does not dominate the other new faces and still he is cleverly used to deliver punch lines or raunchy, rustic Punjabi humor. Consummate artist he is, he does not disappoint.

Rang De Basanti is another movie that is slowly bridging the gap between Hollywood and Bollywood. Riots of colours, flamboyance of youth and sincerity of India’s youthful aspiration in making their country proud is presented in mesmerizing manner. A R Rahman’s has set the musical score with fast paced scores like Yuva but this time with Punjabi folk punctuated by effective use of Dholak . He is proving better than combination of Salilda and RD Barman with sheer magic of chorus orchestration musical ensemble.

The director of this movie is same as that of ‘Aks’, a movie that demonstrated the risk taking ability of new generation film producers and directors. However, Rang de basanti shows the maturity of the same director by maintaining the innovativeness with refreshing appeal. It was a surprise to see Amir Khan not being catapulted as a savior in climactic scenes. Atul Kulkarni is brought in as another pillar to support the histrionics ability of the movie lest movie does not become ordinary with mediocre performance of new comers. Instead, new artists have enlivened beyond the expectations of viewers letting Atul Kulkarni and Amir Khan carrying the balance with measured performances. Raghvan’s and Alice Patton’s character acts more like a catalyst in bringing lethal chemistry of bizarre contrasting youthfulness of buddies into a sensational tribute to their country they adored sincerely. Om Puri, Waheeda Rahman, Anupam and Kiran Kher wouldn’t have done their little roles had they not been captivated by the script of the movie and conviction of the director.

Rang De Basanti goes into the list of my recent favorites that included Khaki, Munnabhai MBBS, Virrudha, Black – but come shade above in terms overall cinematic value.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

real life hero of swades

Ashutosh Gowarikar’s protagonist Mohan Bhargava arrived in India last year after being 12 years in USA to light a bulb in a remote village. The character was fictional but derived from few real life men who gave up their satisfying career, comfortable lifestyle in western world to make a visible difference by application of their skills to their country. After seeing the movie, comments ranged from ‘Highly improbable story’ to ‘who wouldn’t come back to India if you find lithesome, gorgeous woman in countryside’. Some of them did term the act as ‘inspirational’ and some consigned as a senseless desperation act smitten by patriotism only to rue the decision forever.

One such real Mohan Bhargava arrived in India in 1975 and went onto create a top class institute that continues to benefit thousands of poor Indians and hundreds of Africans who had given their hope to live a healthy life after losing both Kidneys. This man is Prof. H. L. Trivedi – a renowned transplant physician and now Director of Institute of Kidney Diseases at Ahmedabad. He has narrated his life story in a published autobiography ‘Tryst with Destiny’.

This autobiographical life journey takes off from his early days at dusty village of Saurashtra with stopover at BJ Medical College in Ahmedabad and Cleveland Clinic where he works under inventor of Dialysis machine ‘ Willem Kolf ‘ to a final destination at McMaster university in Canada whom he considers a ‘Mecca of Medicine’. Return journey back home starts with a hope and vision of providing most modern medical treatment to commoners in India at affordable price but hope stumbles upon one speed-breaker to another. First surprise of modern India comes with corrupt customs officer who asks for a ‘just and decent’ bribe to clear his belongings from customs. Lethargic government bureaucracies coupled with snob mentality oriented people under tutelage of corrupt government ministers almost bring his enthusiasm to a grinding halt. Sliver lining to this entire imbroglio is an effort of a sincere IAS officer and his old patients who stretch themselves to help this weird man to achieve his crazy dreams. It’s remarkable saga of accomplishing his dream despite all these obstacles.

Hilarious yet realistic is the description of lifestyle of ‘professor of medicine at university hospital‘ – office chamber is nothing but a wooden desk with coffee marks imprinted on it and the broken arm chair , campus home – a government dilapidated stinking ground floor place infested with mosquitoes and cockroaches. His narration of his struggle to bring sense of ‘kicking and alive attitude’ with people and the institute that was created to bring life into suffering patients is gripping. He is candid enough to confess his vacillating mindset prevailing then that swung like a pendulum from thought on abandoning everything and taking next flight to Canada to another one that kept on egging him to maintain his resolve and self-belief. His persistence with people in inculcating impeccable American work ethics, corruption free environ and compassionate understanding of poor and needy patients is indeed commendable. It is remarkable that a humble upbringing from a village teacher’s family that instilled moral values and sense of sacrifice towards family and the home country played as much important role as American way of efficient, competitive, ethical work management. He acknowledges that he would not have been what he is today without the these two environs – one rustic life with basic minimum things for survival and other surfeit economy that keeps on raising the bar of excellence.

His interaction with then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi illustrated in verbatim gives readers an unusual insight of the passion this great lady had in making India a model of technological excellence. Intense interaction with Acharya Kriplani brings the purity of incorruptible character of this sage and his subsequent illusion of seeing India deviating from the path that he had envisaged. In contrast to these two individuals, is the behavior of some of the politicians who have no qualms in subverting national interest for the benefit of popular votes. Dark deeds of political hooligans and power brokers who try to ‘fix’ him to ruin his very image in the society bring shivers and disgust to the readers yet highlight the dangers that lie ahead of the people that are consumed with missionary goals. These chapters reflect the grit and determination of a person who is ready to take odds to succeed in his endeavor.

Few of the chapters deal with basics of organ transplantation, pros, and cons of different health care delivery models and management of medical institute. These chapters could be insipid to non-medical readers.

This year, his dream project that started from ‘coffee marked table and broken chair’ has completed 25 years and is proudly and fondly referred as IKD - the leading Kidney transplant center in India. This autobiography was written in 1996 and does not cover the new standards that he has set in subsequent years. His mission to make affordable Kidney transplant has fructified but now he is on another mission of making transplant patients not dependable on expensive immunosuppressive drugs that is forever burden on his patients. His search for this panacea has made him develop newer methods of ‘tolerance’ for donor organ acceptance and embark on setting up an ultramodern embryonic stem cell transplantation laboratory - perhaps first one in India.

When I was with him in small hotel in Kampala-Uganda, a person who worked as a barber came and touched his feet. He could not believe that a man who saved his life in Ahmedabad could be in Kampala. He called up the hospital to verify if this was really that man. In Nairobi, within a day, news spread by word of mouth about his arrival in Kenya; all his patients gathered and felicitated him for his noble work. Today, there are many Nigerians, Tanzanians in addition to Kenyan and Ugandans are flocking to his center to get a new lease of life. Today many world-renowned professors in organ transplantation and Rolf M. Zinkernagel Noble Laureate for medicine in 1996 visit his institute. African governments are keen to use his expertise to set up a center in their country on a model that of IKD.

It defies my logic when nephrology fraternity in India does not take cognizance of his efforts nor state political leaders consider him worthy enough to accord even Padmashri. This question also haunts many westerners who often ask him “Your work looks so promising and extremely beneficial to developing countries, why is it that your country doesn’t take notice of your work? “ Prof.Trivedi just smiles and carries on with his mission"!